Gabriele Tarquini has ended Chevrolet’s 2012 World Touring Car Championship winning streak, leading a LUKOIL Racing 1-2 in the first-ever world championship race to be held at the Slovakia Ring.
It was the Italian’s first win in just over a year, with his last visit to the top step of the podium coming at the opening race at Zolder last year, which was SEAT’s one and only win of the year.
Starting from third place at the rolling start, Tarquini slotted in behind pole-sitter Norbert Michelisz on the first two laps, before he bumped the Hungarian out of the lead at Turn 3 on the third lap.
Having dropped to third behind Tarquini and Dudukalo, the BMW driver then came under attack from Yvan Muller, who made a clumsy lunge on him at the final corner, with the three-time champion nerfing Michelisz into a spin. Muller was instantly hit with a drive-through penalty, while Michelisz eventually finished a disconsolate sixth.
Out front, Tarquini led comfortably from team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo, who had a momentary lapse of concentration when he slid wide and allowed Pepe Oriola to slip through into second place. But the Spanish driver had pushed his tyres too hard in the early laps, and retired with a front-left puncture with a few laps to go.
This allowed Dudukalo back up into second for his first-ever WTCC podium, holding off a late-race challenge from Alain Menu, who was the only Chevrolet to make it onto the podium.
The Swiss racer had worked his way up the order almost unnoticed by the cameras, and finished ahead of battling Italian duo Alberto Cerqui (ROAL BMW) and Stefano D’Aste (Wiechers BMW), the latter will start from pole for today’s second race.
|A host of relatively less-fancied drivers finished in the points: Alberto Cerqui claimed his best finish to-date with fourth, while Tom Boardman took his less-fancied SEAT TDi into the top ten, having started from the back of the grid.|
The lower end of the top-ten featured an unlikely gaggle of points’ finishers, courtesy of a wild few opening lap that accounted for six drivers.
As the pack funnelled towards Turn 1 on the opening lap, AON Ford racer Tom Chilton found himself squeezed onto the outside line and pitched into the gravel trap by Tiago Monteiro as he tried to turn in for the corner.
Just a few corners later, Monteiro would find himself coming under assault by Chilton’s team-mate James Nash, which saw the two collide and also involve Robert Huff as the innocent party. Monteiro and Nash would find their races over, while Huff tried to stagger on for a few more laps, before electing to park his battered Chevrolet.
The drama wasn’t yet over when cameras spotted the two Engstler BMWs of Franz Engstler and Charles Ng colliding head-on. Both were some distance apart on the track before the contact, and it later emerged that Engstler had been hit by Tom Coronel, only to collide with Ng as he tried to rejoin. Coronel – who finished seventh on the road – was hit with a post-race time penalty for his troubles.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Slovakia – Race 1 Final Classification (10 laps):
* Tom Coronel was awarded a 30-second post-race time penalty after stewards ruled he had caused an avoidable collision with Franz Engstler
You can watch the entire race below: