Alain Menu – or should that be Michel Vaillante? – has continued the Chevrolet team’s fine 2012 championship form by winning the second and final World Touring Car Championship race at Portugal.
The Swiss driver cruised to a dominant win in the reverse-grid race, grabbing the lead from SEAT pole-sitter Pepe Oriola to beat the Spaniard home by 3.2 seconds. Tom Coronel claimed the final podium spot in his ROAL Motorsports BMW.
The result allowed Menu to close back up to Chevrolet team-mates Robert Huff and Yvan Muller in the Drivers’ Championship race, with the pair finishing off the podium in fourth and fifth places respectively.
Seventeen-year-old Oriola delivered a performance that belied his tender years to finish a career-best second and claim another Independent Trophy class win in his SEAT. The Spaniard fell to third behind Menu and Coronel at the end of the opening lap, but he redressed the balance by passing Coronel on Lap 2.
Unable to close down the gap to Menu – who built himself a six-second lead within the first three laps – he steadied his pace to claim a well-earned podium.
Behind Coronel, the battle for fourth place raged between Race 1 winner Muller, team-mate Huff and the SEAT of Gabriele Tarquini, Tarquini ran ahead of the pair in the initial stages, but it was Muller who tried to get by with a bold move into Turn 1 on Lap 7.
Aggressive as ever in defending his position, Tarquini’s efforts went awry when he took too much kerb at Turn 1, bounced onto two wheels and let Muller slip through. With his corner exit compromised, he was vulnerable to Huff at the following corner.
Again trying to cover his line, Tarquini was tapped at the rear by Huff and pitched into a half-spin, which Muller did well to avoid despite losing his position to Huff, who gained two spots in the confusion.
Tarquini pitted and retired with rear suspension damage at the end of the lap, while Huff did well to avoid any post-race sanction from the FIA Stewards.
Muller would battle to the finish line to claim fifth place, finishing just metres ahead of the fast-closing Alberto Cerqui, who was enjoying the best performance of his brief WTCC career. The Italian was unable to find a way by the wily Muller and had to settle for sixth place.
2012 FIA WTCC Race of Portugal – Race 2 Final Classification (11 laps):
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