Michel Nykjær has claimed his second World Touring Car Championship career victory, withstanding enormous pressure from James Nash to claim a lights-to-flag victory at the Salzburgring.
Championship leader Yvan Muller stormed through to finish third from thirteenth on the grid to make it an all-Chevrolet podium.
While the raft of post-qualifying penalties delivered one of the most mixed-up grids seen in awhile, the field managed to make it through the tight opening chicane at the race’s rolling start without too much incident, although Marc Basseng found himself forced into a while slide onto the grass as the pack concertinaed up. Incredibly, he avoided making contact with anyone.
Out in the lead, front-row starters Nykjær and Nash kicked off a race-long battle for first place with Mehdi Bennani heading fellow BMW runners Fredy Barth and Franz Engstler, who both managed to get the jump on WTCC rookie Mikhail Kozlovskiy in the LADA, as did the Russian’s teammate James Thompson.
The Chevrolets were showing incredible top-end speed, allowing Nykjær and Nash to ease away from Bennani, and the midfield runners such as Muller, his teammate Tom Chilton and Nash’s teammate Alex MacDowall, to make their respective climbs through the field.
Muller was, as is customary, the most aggressive in working his way through the pace, and managed to skip ahead of both MacDowall and Barth as the pair jostled for fourth place into the first chicane, slicing past the former at the chicane, and then outdragging Barth along the back straight to set himself up to chase down Bennani’s third place.
Up at the front, Nykjær continued to defend vigorously from Nash, with the Brit unable to find a way past the identical machine of the Dane, despite occupying his mirrors for lap after lap.
While the marshals cleared away the debris under waved yellow flags, it gave Nash one less overtaking opportunity around the high-speed Salzburgring.
The pair crossed the line just two-tenths of a second apart, while Muller managed to scramble by Bennani on the final lap to complete the podium.
MacDowall came home in fifth position after finally getting by Barth, with Chilton’s RML Chevrolet claiming seventh place.
Rob Huff was the only SEAT runner to finish in the points at a circuit to which the little León WTCC is ill-suited. The Englishman had an entertaining scrap with his compatriot Thompson, which included Huff being tipped sideways through the final sequence of corners – lightning-quick reactions from the reigning champ kept him pointing in the right direction!
Thompson hung on to claim his second points finish of the season with ninth place, while Tom Coronel surged through to claim tenth after starting near the back of the field.
The second race gets underway at 13:50 local time, with Nash starting from pole position and no doubt eager to move one spot further up the podium.
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Austria – Race 1 Final Classification (12 laps):
|1.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||17:41.335||Y|
|2.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.298||Y|
|3.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 0.645|
|4.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 1.586||Y|
|5.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 4.374||Y|
|6.||Fredy Barth||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 5.121||Y|
|7.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 7.114|
|8.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 11.711|
|9.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 15.758|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 15.812|
|11.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 16.000||Y|
|12.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 18.388|
|13.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 19.097|
|14.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 19.604|
|15.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||+ 20.117||Y|
|16.||Mikhail Kozlowskiy||LADA Sport Granta||+ 23.511|
|17.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 27.793||Y|
|18.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 32.141||Y|
|19.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 3 laps||Y|
|20.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 3 laps||Y|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||8 laps||Y|
|DNF.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||8 laps|
|DNF.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||3 laps||Y|
“Y” denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor.