Yvan Muller has led home a Chevrolet clean sweep of the podium in the opening World Touring Car Championship race at the Hungaroring, followed by RML team-mates Robert Huff and Alain Menu. The trio survived a fraught opening corner to claim another dominant result for the works Cruzes.
Having swept to a 1-2-3 in yesterday’s qualifying session, the trio needed to ensure that they emerged from a potentially troublesome first corner still occupying the top three positions.
Starting from fourth place in his SEAT, Gabriele Tarquini had other ideas, no doubt hoping that he could repeat his opening race win a week ago at Slovakia, which was the first non-Chevrolet win of the season.
Making a fantastic start, the Italian tried to outrun the Chevrolets as the pack funnelled into Turn 1, but he found himself launched onto two wheels as he tried to muscle his way past on the apex of the corner. His suspension too damaged to continue, he limped home to the pits and retired.
Having been jumped by Tarquini at the start, Menu also found himself caught in a tangle at Turn 1, making contact with local driver Norbert Michelisz and Darryl O’Young. The contact pushed O’Young into the gravel, and the hapless Hong Kong driver was collected by Franz Engstler as he rejoined the circuit.
The biff and barge dropped Menu to fifth behind Mehdi Bennani’s BMW and Tiago Monteiro’s SEAT, but the Swiss driver quickly muscled his way back into third through the next sequence of corners.
He briefly tried to mount a challenge on team-mate Huff’s second position, but the Englishman doggedly hugged the inside line through the opening sequence of corners when he came under attack, resisting Menu’s advances.
The top-three positions remained as they were for the rest of the race, while Bennani finished just over ten seconds adrift to claim a career-best fourth-placed finish and the Independent class win.
Monteiro finally claimed his first decent haul of points for the season with fifth place, finishing half a second ahead of Tom Coronel, who staged an incredible drive through the field, despite starting from a near-impossible 21st place on the grid.
The Dutchman was a revelation in the race, making his final overtaking move on the last lap of the race to get by fellow BMW and fan favourite Michelisz.
Race 2 gets underway at 2:35pm local time, with Franz Engstler set to start from pole position, assuming he can get his BMW repaired without having to break parc ferme conditions between the races.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Hungary – Race 1 Final Classification (12 laps):