Yvan Muller and Alain Menu have ensured that the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship title will be decided on the outcome of the very last race of the season, after the pair claimed a 1-2 finish in today’s opening race at Macau.
The pair benefited from championship leader Rob Huff crashing out only moments after he took the lead of the race.
Starting alongside Huff on the front row of the nine-lap race’s rolling start, Muller assumed the lead from his team-mate on the long sprint through the Mandarin right-hander along the six-kilometre circuit’s fastest point.
If there’s going to be drama, it usually comes at the next corner. While the leading Chevrolet runners made it through cleanly, behind them came utter chaos when Mehdi Bennani crashed into the tyre barriers and completely blocked the circuit.
The incident allowed the first six cars to skip away unchallenged, while the rest of the field was delayed for over a minute while marshals frantically craned Bennani’s car away to clear the track.
The accident also took out all three Independent Trophy title challengers – Norbert Michelisz, Pepe Oriola and Stefano D’Aste – who will all have to fight it out for class honours in today’s second and final race.
Up ahead, the leading trio of Chevrolets continued in good order with Muller leading Huff and Alain Menu, while future Honda team-mates Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro staged an entertaining, albeit brief, battle for fourth place. Monteiro got the upper hand by passing Tarquini on the second lap of the race.
A second-placed finish would have guaranteed Huff his first WTCC title, but the Englishman bravely summoned up the courage to get ahead of Muller on Lap 4 at Lisboa.
It was a clean move, but it all ended in disaster just a few corners later when, unbelievably, Huff made a rare error and hit the wall. Having thrown away the chance to close off the title with a race in hand, Huff limped his Cruze back to the pits, leaving Muller and Menu to duke it out for the win.
Menu tried to launch his own bid for victory, but having had more than one run-in with Muller over the course of the year, he wasn’t prepared to launch an attack that could end in disaster and kill his own championship ambitions.
The pair crossed the line nose-to-tail to claim another 1-2 for the RML team, while Monteiro claimed Honda’s first works effort podium in the Japanese carmaker’s third outing with the Civic S2000.
Tarquini finished fourth in his penultimate race in SEAT colours, while Darryl O’Young was fifth to claim an easy Independent Trophy win, having been the only driver in his class to make it through Lisboa before the carnage struck.
Tom Coronel finished a very distant sixth, almost a minute adrift of Muller. The Dutchman was the first of the finishers to have been caught up in the Bennani fracas, but finished ahead of the rest of the field to have been delayed in the scrum.
2012 FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau – Race 1 Final Classification (9 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||23:08.977|
|2.||Alain Menu||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.915|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||JAS Honda Civic S2000 TC||+ 1.297|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1.967|
|5.||Darryl O’Young||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 11.519||Y|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 55.136|
|7.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:04.037||Y|
|8.||Fredy Barth||Swiss Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:09.730||Y|
|9.||Alex MacDowell||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 1:16.524||Y|
|10.||Tom Boardman||Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:22.194||Y|
|11.||Aleksei Dudukalo||Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:22.372||Y|
|12.||James Nash||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||+ 1:23.053|
|13.||Tom Chilton||Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC||+ 1:25.822|
|14.||Fernando Monje||SUNRED Engineering SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:29.347||Y|
|15.||André Couto||Tuenti Racing SR León 1.6T||+ 2:12.605||Y|
|16.||Henry Ho Wai Kun||Five Auto Racing Team BMW 320si||+ 2:19.429||Y|
|17.||Joseph Merszei||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320si||+ 3:23.533||Y|
|18.||Filipe de Souza||China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti||+ 2 laps||Y|
|19.||Célio Alves Dias||China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti||+ 2 laps||Y|
|20.||Kei Cozzolino||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 2 laps||Y|
|21.||Mak Ka Lok||RPM Racing BMW 320si||+ 3 laps||Y|
|NF.||Kin Veng Ng||China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT||5 laps||Y|
|NF.||Robert Huff||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||4 laps|
|NF.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||4 laps||Y|
|NC.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC||3 laps||Y|
|NF.||Stefano D’Aste||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||2 laps||Y|
|NF.||Eurico de Jesus||Five Auto Racing Honda Accord R||1 lap||Y|
|NF.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||0 laps||Y|
|NF.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing BMW 320TC||0 laps||Y|
‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor
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