Yvan Muller extended his already huge points lead in the FIA World Touring Car Drivers’ Championship standings with a comfortable win in the series’ maiden race on Argentine soil at the Autodromo Termas de Río Hondo.
But the weekend’s festivities were dominated by local hero José María López, who claimed a dominant victory in the second race to cap off a sensational debut weekend.
Race 1 – Muller triumphs in South American opener
The opening race saw Muller lead an all-Chevrolet podium, finishing five seconds clear of Pepe Oriola, while the Frenchman’s RML teammate Tom Chilton was third.
Chilton triggered an aborted start to the race when he failed to properly line up on his grid slot at the race’s rolling start.
After another warm-up lap and perhaps a little rattled, Chilton promptly lost two places from his front-row starting position when the race got going, running wide at the first corner and allowing Norbert Michelisz and a fast-starting Oriola (up from fifth) through into the top-three.
While Muller skipped into the lead that was never challenged, Chilton set about trying to recover lost ground, passing Oriola for third on the fourth lap, before reclaiming second place from Michelisz on the next tour.
The Hungarian lost a further two spots to Oriola and Michel Nykjær, before he was involved in a bit of argy-bargy with James Nash, who ran into the back of his Honda while also clipping Nykjær, an incident which allowed an opportunistic Gabriele Tarquini to jump into fourth place past the lot of them.
Also making up ground was WTCC debutant José María López, who was steadily moving up the order from his ninth-placed starting position and performing well ahead of his fellow BMW runners, none of whom managed to finish in the points. The local driver passed James Nash for sixth place on Lap 8, before moving ahead of Nykjær on the penultimate lap to claim class honours from the Dane in the Yokohama Independent Trophy. It would get better in Race 2…
Another pair of drivers who staged even more impressive charges through the field were reigning champion Rob Huff, who managed to work his way up to eighth place from the back of the grid, while Tiago Monteiro also drove well to claim the final championship point from 22nd on the grid.
You can watch the complete race here:
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 1 Final Classification (12 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||22:56.896|
|2.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 4.924||Y|
|3.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 7.813|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 7.989|
|5.||José María López||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||+ 8.846||Y|
|6.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 10.214||Y|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 12.833|
|8.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 13.960|
|9.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 14.636||Y|
|10.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 14.870|
|11.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 15.743||Y|
|12.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 16.619|
|13.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 17.333||Y|
|14.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||+ 19.858||Y|
|15.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 20.247||Y|
|16.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 23.563||Y|
|17.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 23.782||Y|
|18.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 30.675||Y|
|19.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 33.536||Y|
|20.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 36.459||Y|
|DNF.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||8 laps|
|NCF.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||7 laps|
|DNF.||Mikhail Kozlowskiy||LADA Sport Granta||2 laps|
“Y” denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor.
Race 2 – Lopez caps off dream debut!
To the delight of the thousands of spectators who flocked to the circuit, local driver José María López created history by becoming the first driver from Argentina to win a World Touring Car Championship race. More incredibly, the thirty-year-old achieved the feat on his maiden outing in a car he hadn’t driven until this weekend.
As was the case in Race 1, victory came from pole position, with the three-time Super TC2000 champion’s tenth-fastest qualifying effort on Saturday proving good enough for pole position on the partially-shuffled grid.
With his rear-wheel-drive BMW giving him superb traction off the grid, López shot off into the lead, leaving fellow front-row starter Michel Nykjær for dead as the Dane fluffed his start, quickly getting overtaken by Tiago Monteiro from fourth on the grid.
The early threat looked to be Race 1 winner Yvan Muller, who had incredibly gained seven places in the first two laps to be third, although his passage was helped by Tiago Monteiro the under-siege Nykjær wide with an attempted overtaking move.
It wasn’t long until Muller was on the back of second-placed Monteiro, and the two set about whittling down López’s lead.
But disaster would strike for Muller and Monteiro on Lap 5. The Frenchman tried an late outside overtaking move on the Honda driver as they braked for Turn 5, only to succeed in collecting the hapless Portuguese driver and biffing him into the gravel trap.
Monteiro was able to quickly rejoin proceedings, but Muller was predictably awarded a drive-through penalty for his brain fade, with the resulting penalty consigning him to a finish outside the points. Monteiro, meanwhile, would charge hard to finish sixth, although it was a scant reward given a potential win was on the cards.
Monteiro’s Honda teammate Tarquini was able to salvage more pride for the Japanese carmaker with a solid drive to second place, but it wasn’t enough to deprive López from a popular and richly-deserved maiden win.
Pepe Oriola backed up his Race 1 podium effort with a repeat performance in Race 2, finishing ahead of Michel Nykjær, who took advantage his championship rival Muller’s blunder to claim another hatful of points, although he still sits 132 points behind the Frenchman in the championship standings. He will need a major result come the next round at Sonoma if he’s to prevent Muller from wrapping up the title when the field heads to the United States next month.
You can watch Race 2 below:
2013 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 1 Final Classification (11 laps):
|1.||José María López||Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC||20:28.525||Y|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 3.619|
|3.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 3.989||Y|
|4.||Michel Nykjær||NIKA Racing Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 4.945||Y|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 7.135|
|6.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda Civic WTCC||+ 7.517|
|7.||James Nash||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 13.866||Y|
|8.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 16.422||Y|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 16.767|
|10.||Stefano D’Aste||PB Sport BMW 320TC||+ 18.320||Y|
|11.||Alex MacDowall||Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 19.073||Y|
|12.||Tom Chilton||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 19.634|
|13.||Yvan Muller||RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||+ 20.232|
|14.||Fernando Monje||Campos Racing Team SEAT León WTCC||+ 23.092||Y|
|15.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 23.515||Y|
|16.||Mikhail Kozlowskiy||LADA Sport Granta||+ 26.544|
|17.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||+ 27.050||Y|
|18.||Darryl O’Young||ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC||+ 36.055||Y|
|19.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng||Liqui Moly Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 36.476||Y|
|20.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Granta||+ 1 lap|
|21.||Mehdi Bennani||Scuderia Proteam BMW 320TC||+ 3 laps||Y|
|DNF.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||7 laps|
|DNF.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport SEAT León WTCC||4 laps|