Reigning world Touring Car Championship title-holder Yvan Muller has extended his lead in the Drivers’ title race by claiming his sixth victory of the season, narrowly holding out Gabriele Tarquini in a closely-fought opening race at Portugal’s Autódromo Internacional do Algarve circuit.
Starting from the front row for the opening race’s rolling start, the Frenchman swept around the outside of pole-sitter Tarquini to take the lead at Turn 1.
Tarquini held on doggedly to Muller’s coattails for the remainder of the race, but his attention was also focused on keeping Muller’s team-mate (and main championship rival) Robert Huff at bay, with the Englishman launching several unsuccessful attacks on wrestling second place from the SEAT driver.
Huff had managed to get by Norbert Michelisz at the start, and the pair ran in that order for the entire race, with Michelisz steadily dropping back to finish a rather solitary fourth in his BMW.
The big mover of the race was Alain Menu – racing this weekend in the colours of comic book racer Michel Vaillante – with the Swiss driver consolidating his third place in the championship standings with a climb to fifth place from his ninth-placed starting position.
After half-spinning Aleksei Dudukalo out of the way on the opening lap, Menu then set about moving up the order with some neat passing moves on Tiago Monteiro and Tom Coronel to secure fifth place.
Coronel and local driver Monteiro would finish sixth and seventh respectively, while the top ten was rounded our by WTCC rookie Alberto Cerqui, SEAT’s teenage sensation Pepe Oriola and Bamboo Chevrolet racer Alex MacDowell.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Portugal – Race 1 Final Classification (11 laps):
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