Four races into the 2012 World Touring Car Championship season and someone other than Yvan Muller has won a race. This time is was Muller’s Chevrolet team-mate Alain Menu who did the honours at the second leg of the Race of Spain at Valencia, just holding off Tom Coronel in an eventful race.
Looking an Menu’s race, it’s wonder how he managed to win. He survived a hit up from polesitter Stefano D’Aste, a trip across the gravel he slid on some oil and a contact-filled last lap battle with Coronel. In the end, he claimed his first win since last year’s round at Shanghai by just eight-tenths of a second.
There was drama before the race even began when Gabor Wéber’s BMW conked out on the formation lap.
With this race’s standing start set to favour the rear-wheel-drive BMWs, it was little surprise to see pole-sitter Stefano D’Aste make a rapid getaway in his quest for his first WTCC win, followed by Franz Engstler (up from fourth), Menu and Coronel (up from eighth).
Tom Boardman’s race was over at Turn 2 when his SEAT’s front suspension was damaged after he was caught in the first-lap melee.
By the end of the first lap, Menu had managed to sneak by Engstler and was up to second, while Coronel got past the German on the following lap.
D’Aste headed the field from Menu, Coronel and Engstler – the flamboyant Italian gamely holding off Menu’s attacks, and quickly retook the lead from the Swiss driver when he managed to slip by on Lap 6.
But Menu took the lead for good on the following lap when D’Aste ran fractionally wide at Turn 1, and two tours later, he followed Menu into the gravel when both hit a patch of oil on the circuit.
Coronel managed to get alongside Menu at Turn 8 on the final lap, and the pair touched as Menu tried to defend his position. It was thrilling side-by-side stuff as Menu had a wild slide, nut he held out in the end over Coronel’s pock-marked and scuffed BMW.
D’Aste finished an excellent third ahead of fellow Independent BMW runners Norbert Michelisz and Franz Engstler.
Robert Huff finished in sixth place ahead of the race’s best-placed SEAT driver, Pepe Oriola, with Yvan Muller finishing in eighth. The Frenchman had a rather untidy race – including a trip through the gravel – and chalked up his worst finishing position since 2010 Czech Republic round.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Spain – Race 2 Final Classification (13 laps):