In a race all about slipstreaming, Michel Nykjaer held his nerve to win Race 1 at the Salzburgring

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.

Nash was glued to Nykjaer's rear bumper in a tense battle for the Race 1 winNykjær’s cause was helped by a late-race tangle between the two Engstler BMWs of Charles Ng and Franz Engstler – which also took out an innocent Darryl O’Young.

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):

Driver Team Result YIT
1. Michel Nykjær DEN NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet 17:41.335 Y
2. James Nash GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.298 Y
3. Yvan Muller FRA RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 0.645  
4. Mehdi Bennani MOR Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC BMW + 1.586 Y
5. Alex MacDowall GBR Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 4.374 Y
6. Fredy Barth SUI Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC BMW + 5.121 Y
7. Tom Chilton GBR RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Chevrolet + 7.114  
8. Robert Huff GBR Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 11.711  
9. James Thompson GBR LADA Sport Granta LADA + 15.758  
10. Tom Coronel NED ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 15.812
11. Pepe Oriola ESP Tuenti Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 16.000 Y
12. Gabriele Tarquini ITA Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 18.388  
13. Tiago Monteiro POR Castrol Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 19.097
14. Norbert Michelisz HUN Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC Honda + 19.604
15. Stefano D’Aste ITA PB Sport BMW 320TC BMW + 20.117 Y
16. Mikhail Kozlowskiy RUS LADA Sport Granta LADA + 23.511
17. René Münnich DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT + 27.793 Y
18. Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 32.141 Y
19. Franz Engstler DEU Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC BMW + 3 laps Y
20. Darryl O’Young HKG ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC BMW + 3 laps Y
  Not Classified Result  
DNF. Hugo Valente FRA Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 8 laps Y
DNF. Marc Basseng DEU Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC SEAT 8 laps  
DNF. Fernando Monje ESP Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC SEAT 3 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.