Finally, Tom Coronel has done it! The Dutchman has claimed his first World Touring Car Championship win in three years, absorbing race-long pressure from the chasing Chevrolets in the second of today’s two races at Suzuka.
Incredibly, it’s just the third non-Chevrolet win of the season, it being BMW’s second win of the year after Franz Engstler’s shock win at Oschersleben earlier this year.
When pole-sitter Darryl O’Young (Bamboo Chevrolet) made a sluggish getaway, front-row starter Coronel took advantage to ease into an early lead on the opening lap.
Behind him, O’Young was swamped by the chasing pack, and it was perhaps little surprise that he would be the victim of the customary opening-lap bumping and boring. Of equally little surprise was that Gabriele Tarquini was the catalyst: the SUNRED driver hit O’Young from behind and tipped the hapless driver into a spin.
But Coronel – whose BMW had to undergo hasty repairs after being clobbered in the first race – quickly found himself reeled in by the chasing Chevrolet trio of Yvan Muller, Robert Huff and Alain Menu, as well as Robert Dahlgren’s patched-up Volvo.
Mindful of the last round at Valencia where he lost a possible win, Coronel positioned his BMW perfectly in defence and never gave Muller – who was mere feet from Coronel’s bumper for much of the race – a chance to overtake.
While Coronel, Muller and Huff ran in good order, the battle for fourth between Menu and Dahlgren – who’d been punted out of the first race – was great fun.
Dahlgren had initially managed to scramble ahead of Menu and on the eleventh lap, he even tried a run on Huff for third. With Dahlgren trying to pass the Briton around the outside, Huff simply hung the Swede out to dry, which allowed Menu to claim fourth as Dahlgren scrambled to rejoin the circuit.
The former Scandinavian Touring Car Champion managed to close back up onto Menu, and the pair staged an entertaining side-by-side run through the Esses. Menu won that round, leaving Dahlgren to settle for fifth place.
Sixth place went to SUNRED driver and Race 1 podium-finisher Michel Nykjær, who gave himself a healthy points’ boost with back-to-back Independent Trophy wins, courtesy of O’Young’s retirement on the opening lap.
But the Dane’s task wasn’t made easy, as he had to fend off the attentions of Colin Turkington (Wiechers BMW). Behind them, Javier Villa (Proteam BMW) finished eighth and the third of the Independent Trophy drivers, while fellow trophy challengers Norbert Michelisz (Zengõ-Dension BMW) and Kristian Poulsen (Engstler BMW) completed the top-ten.
With Muller and Huff having effectively claimed a 1:1 draw by each finishing ahead of the other this weekend, Muller’s points lead has been marginally trimmed to 13 points over the Englishman. Menu still remains in the hunt, albeit 73 points adrift.
The next (and penultimate) round of the championship is in two weeks time at the tight Tianma circuit in Shanghai.
2011 FIA WTCC Race of Japan Final Classification (Race 2 – 23 laps):
|1.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||21:10.854|
|2.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.558|
|3.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.840|
|4.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1.576|
|5.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 2.057|
|6.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 7.397|
|7.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 7.730|
|8.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 8.292|
|9.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||+ 8.606|
|10.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 8.901|
|11.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 9.477|
|12.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 15.744|
|13.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 22.668|
|14.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 23.263|
|15.||Toshihiro Arai||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 23.541|
|16.||Masaki Kano||DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 25.577|
|17.||Hiroki Yoshimoto||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 26.926|
|18.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 33.610|
|19.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||+ 34.092|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||10 laps|
|DNF.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1 lap|
|DNS.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||did not start|
|DNS.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||did not start|
|DNQ.||Fabio Fabiani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||did not qualify|
|Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||54.012|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]