Yvan Muller remains in the championship hunt after winning the opening race at Macau

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):

Driver Team Result YIT
1. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 23:08.977  
2. Alain Menu SUI RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.915  
3. Tiago Monteiro POR JAS Honda Civic S2000 TC Honda + 1.297  
4. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1.967  
5. Darryl O’Young HKG Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 11.519 Y
6. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 55.136  
7. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 1:04.037 Y
8. Fredy Barth SUI Swiss Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1:09.730 Y
9. Alex MacDowell GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 1:16.524 Y
10. Tom Boardman GBR Special Tune Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1:22.194 Y
11. Aleksei Dudukalo RUS Lukoil Racing SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1:22.372 Y
12. James Nash GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford + 1:23.053  
13. Tom Chilton GBR Team Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC Ford + 1:25.822  
14. Fernando Monje ESP SUNRED Engineering SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 1:29.347 Y
15. André Couto MCU Tuenti Racing SR León 1.6T Sunred + 2:12.605 Y
16. Henry Ho Wai Kun MCU Five Auto Racing Team BMW 320si BMW + 2:19.429 Y
17. Joseph Merszei MCU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320si BMW + 3:23.533 Y
18. Filipe de Souza MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti Chevrolet + 2 laps Y
19. Célio Alves Dias MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Lacetti Chevrolet + 2 laps Y
20. Kei Cozzolino ITA ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 2 laps Y
21. Mak Ka Lok MCU RPM Racing BMW 320si BMW + 3 laps Y
  Not Classified    
NF. Kin Veng Ng MCU China Dragon Chevrolet Cruze LT Chevrolet 5 laps Y
NF. Robert Huff GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 4 laps  
NF. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW 4 laps Y
NC. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW 3 laps Y
NF. Stefano D’Aste ITA Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW 2 laps Y
NF. Eurico de Jesus MCU Five Auto Racing Honda Accord R Honda 1 lap Y
NF. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 0 laps Y
NF. Mehdi Bennani MOR Proteam Racing BMW 320TC BMW 0 laps Y

‘Y’ denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor

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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.