Defending WTCC title-holder Yvan Muller has claimed a dominant win in the second race of the championship’s adventures at the tight and twisty Tianma Circuit in China, with the Frenchman extending his points lead over team-mate and closest rival Robert Huff to a 20-point margin.
Starting from fourth place for this race’s standing start, the two-time champion gained a place on the short sprint into Turn 1, and then picked up another spot courtesy of a bit of opening lap biff-and-barge between Gabriele Tarquini and Huff, passing the latter for second place.
With the SUNRED cars expected to struggle in Race 2 as they did in Race 1, it was simply a matter of time before Muller got by Tarquini, and once he was ahead, he eased away to win by over 10 seconds. The win gives the Frenchman a 20-point buffer of his nearest title rival Huff, with just the season-ending pair of races at Macau to come.
By contrast, Huff’s hard work in Race 1 (where he gained two points over Muller by finishing third to his team-mate’s fourth) was undone courtesy of his ragged first lap contretemps with Tarquini.
The Italian is well-known for his robust defence, and while he’s never been in the championship hunt this year, he equally had every right to make his rivals’ tasks of getting by him as difficult as he wanted.
Eager to try and build himself a margin over Muller, Huff tried to get by Tarquini on the opening lap, but the Italian’s famous defensive driving saw Huff bumped off the circuit, where he proceeded to bounce along the infield before rejoining the circuit.
The underside of his car now damaged, Huff could do little more than follow in Tarquini’s wheeltracks for the rest of the race to finish a frustrating third, while Muller skipped ahead.
Tarquini soldiered on to finish in second place, doing well to keep a long train of cars behind him for the rest of the race. Behind Huff, the chasing cars included Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW), Colin Turkington (Wiechers BMW), Kristian Poulsen (Engstler BMW) and Alain Menu (RML Chevrolet), while Franz Engstler rapidly closed up to the back of the group in the final laps.
Turkington managed to get by Coronel at the start of the final lap to finish fourth, while Race 1 victor Menu claimed sixth, although Muller’s win officially put him out of title contention.
Sixth place went to Independent Trophy leader Poulsen, who held off his team-mate Engstler by just 0.3 seconds – the Dane now holds a 23-point lead in the Trophy standings from Norbert Michelisz, who failed to score after being tapped into a spin on the opening lap.
Tarquini aside, the SUNRED cars again had shocking races. Tiago Monteiro found himself caught up in the Michelisz first-lap carnage, while Fredy Barth tumbled down the order to finish 12th, despite starting third. Pepe Oriola ran in the top-ten, but his tyres fell away and he finished 13th, one spot ahead of fellow SUNRED rider Michel Nykjær.
The championship now heads to Macau at the end of the month, where a huge grid of drivers will compete for honours. But all eyes will be on the title fight at the front of the field between Muller and Huff. With just 50 points up for grabs, Huff has a lot of work to do…
2011 FIA WTCC Race of China Final Classification (Race 2 – 25 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||28:19.599|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 10.518|
|3.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 11.385|
|4.||Colin Turkington||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 11.812|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 12.140|
|6.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 12.896|
|7.||Kristian Poulsen||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 13.336|
|8.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 13.612|
|9.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Volvo C30 1.6T ‘Drive’||+ 22.279|
|10.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 24.172|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 33.725|
|12.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SR León 1.6T||+ 36.977|
|13.||Pepe Oriola||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 43.090|
|14.||Michel Nykjær||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||+ 46.761|
|15.||Fabio Fabiani||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320si||1 lap behind|
|16.||Philip Ma||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320si||1 lap behind|
|17.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil-SUNRED SR León 1.6T||2 laps behind|
|DNF.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||2 laps|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||SUNRED SR León 1.6T||1 lap|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ-Dension Team BMW 320TC||1 lap|
|DNF.||Javier Villa García||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||0 laps|
|DNS.||Yukinori Taniguchi||Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||did not start|
|Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||1:06.080|
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]