Before the drama began... Alain Menu converted pole position into his fifth win of the 2012 WTCC season

Alain Menu has claimed victory in an incident-filled opening World Touring Car Championship race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The Swiss driver led home Chevrolet team-mate Robert Huff, who now takes the championship lead after championship leader Yvan Muller was a first-lap retiree after he was taken out on a fraught opening lap of the race.

Muller’s issues began when he tried to overtake polesitter Menu around the outside of Turn 1 at the start of the race, only for the pair to make mild contact as the pack funneled around the long right-hander.

Muller retired after being hit by Michelisz

Under braking for Turn 2, Muller found himself tapped into a spin by Norbert Michelisz, and as he tried to recover his slide, he triggered a concertina reaction that saw Colin Turkington, Darryl O’Young, Alex MacDowell, and Pepe Oriola all sustain damage.

The contact led to the retirements of all but Turkington, who dropped to twentieth place before staging an aggressive charge through the field to cross the finish line in eighth place.

The opening lap contretemps saw much of the field completely reshuffled. Stefano D’Aste – winner last time out at Suzuka – was promoted to third place, and finished the race unchallenged to claim an important Independent Trophy class victory, ahead of Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini.

Tom Boardman was another beneficiary in the opening lap shenanigans, but it later emerged that he – along with seventh-placed Tiago Monteiro, tenth-placed Fredy Barth, fifteenth-placed Hugo Valente and James Nash (who retired after contact with Fernando Monje) – had benefitted from cutting the opening corner complex trying to avoid the first-lap carnage. The FIA Stewards has no choice but to issue all with post-race thirty-second time penalties.

The readjustment promoted Turkington to sixth place, while the likes of Alberto Cerqui, Mehdi Bennani, Franz Engstler and Charles Ng rounded out the points-paying positions.

2012 FIA WTCC Race of China – Race 1 Final Classification (13 laps):

Driver Team Result YIT
1. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 25:12.369  
2. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 1.500  
3. Stefano D’Aste ITA Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW + 11.192 Y
4. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 13.327  
5. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 15.653  
6. Colin Turkington GBR WSR Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 30.125  
7. Alberto Cerqui ITA ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 31.463 Y
8. Mehdi Bennani MOR Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW + 40.183 Y
9. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 40.320 Y
10. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 44.499 Y
11. Tom Chilton GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford + 46.076  
12. Tom Boardman* GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 56.382 Y
13. Tiago Monteiro* POR JAS Honda Civic S2000 TC Honda + 1:00.032  
14. Fredy Barth* SUI Swiss Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1:06.426 Y
15. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 1:07.550 Y
16. Hugo Valente FRA Tuenti Racing SR León 1.6T Sunred + 1:17.406 Y
17. Kelvin Leong MCU Song Veng Honda Accord Euro R Honda + 1:21.551 Y
18. Eric Kwong HKG Look Fong Racing Chevrolet Cruze LT Chevrolet + 1:25.129 Y
19. Filipe de Souza MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti Chevrolet + 1:27.186 Y
20. Kin Veng Ng MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti Chevrolet + 1:37.603 Y
21. Alex Liu Lic Ka MCU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320si BMW + 1 lap Y
22. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 4 laps Y
  Not Classified    
NF. Fernando Monje ESP SUNRED Engineering SEAT León WTCC SEAT 8 laps Y
NF. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 7 laps Y
NF. James Nash GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford 6 laps  
NC. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT 6 laps Y
NC. Alex MacDowell GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 4 laps Y
NF. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 1 lap  

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.