Citroën’s championship frontrunners Yvan Muller and José María López have claimed a victory apiece in the World Touring Car Championship’s sojourn to the Salzburgring.
Muller took a steady lights-to-flag victory ahead of Tom Coronel in Race 1, but found himself eliminated for the second time this season in a multi-car accident on the opening lap in Race 2, which López won from seventh on the grid. Having finished third in Race 1 as well, the Argentinean managed to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 41 points over the Frenchman.
After inheriting pole position when Gianni Morbidelli was demoted five places, Muller took full advantage to score a comfortable lights-to-flag victory in the opening race and become the first three-time race-winner at the Salzburgring.
With the Campos mechanics pulling an overnight shift to repair Hugo Valente’s badly-damaged Chevrolet, all 19 runners were able to take to the grid for the first of the day’s two 15-lap races.
Muller led away from pole position, while a fast-starting Tom Coronel overtook José María López off the line and then shoved his way by the second Citroën of Sébastien Loeb at the first chicane. Loeb was forced wide and dropped in behind López.
Coronel’s hold on second place wouldn’t last long, with a resurgent López slipstreaming ahead of the Chevrolet on the long back straight.
While the leading three set about their battle for the win, Loeb led a train of cars comprising Tiago Monteiro, Tom Chilton, Mehdi Bennani, Norbert Michelisz, Gabriele Tarquini, and a slow-starting Gianni Morbidelli.
Despite the track’s renown for slipstreaming battles, there were surprisingly few passing moves over the course of the race. One passing of note was Tarquini getting by fellow Honda runner Michelisz on the fifth lap.
Positions changed up towards the front on Lap 8 when López made a rare mistake, outbraking himself at the first chicane and having to take up the escape road. Coronel needed no second invitation to take second place, and this time he managed to stay ahead of the Argentinean, with the pair now joined in a three-way scrap by Loeb, who’d broken clear of the Honda-Chevrolet train behind him.
Muller completed an untroubled race almost three seconds clear of Coronel – earning his best finish of the year to-date – while López and Loeb completed the top-four.
The thin TC2T class saw Franz Engstler claim victory from John Filippi and Pasquale di Sabatino, who were both lapped.
The race saw two retirees, and rather predictably it came from the Campos Chevrolet camp. Both Huo Valente and Dušan Borković were forced to retire their hastily-repaired machines with mechanical issues.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Austria – Race 1 Classification (15 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||20:56.737||TC1|
|2.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 3.840||TC1|
|3.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 4.276||TC1|
|4.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 5.427||TC1|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 12.403||TC1|
|6.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 12.945||TC1|
|7.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 13.566||TC1|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 14.868||TC1|
|9.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 15.672||TC1|
|10.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 16.184||TC1|
|11.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 25.974||TC1|
|12.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 27.778||TC1|
|13.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 31.278||TC1|
|14.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 41.924||TC1|
|15.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:20.251||TC2|
|16.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1 lap||TC2|
|17.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1 lap||TC2|
|DNF.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||5 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||4 laps||TC1|
After finishing on the podium in Race 1, López claimed his third win of the season with a fighting drive from seventh on the grid. While Race 1 proved to be something of a sedate affair, the second sprint proved to be quite the contrast.
With the four Hondas occupying the first four grid slots, the Japanese cars looked well place to keep the quicker Chevrolets and Citroëns at bay and claim their first win of the season.
Polesitter Gabriele Tarquini led the field away with works teammate Tiago Monteiro making a rapid getaway from the second row of the grid to slot ahead of Norbert Michelisz and Mehdi Bennani.
Behind them came chaos. Muller made a fantastic getaway from tenth on the grid, but with no room with which to thread his way between the slower starting cars ahead of him, he put his left wheels off the circuit in his attempts to get by, only to find his path blocked by teammate López.
As the Frenchman moved back, he bumped into the side of James Thompson’s LADA – also making a rapid launch – which then collected the sister car of Rob Huff. Both red cars were sent pin-balling into the barriers along the start/finish straight and immediate retirement. With heavy damage to two of its three cars, the Russian team faces a busy fortnight trying to ready its cars for the next round, its home event at Moscow Raceway.
There was further race-ending contact between the two Chevrolets of Tom Chilton and Dušan Borković at the first chicane, and with the track partially blocked by the two stranded LADAs, the race was red-flagged for fifteen minutes while the mess was cleared away.
Tarquini led the restart with López climbing up to fifth. The Citroën driver showcased his car’s better straightline speed as he blasted by each car along the one-kilometre long back straight; Bennani was overtaken on Lap 5, with Michelisz succumbing a lap later. Monteiro was next up on the eighth lap, leaving Tarquini as his only obstacle for the lead.
The safety car was called on Lap 11 after René Münnich engaged in a bit of rallycross through the first chicane and left a pile of gravel on the racing line, which Tom Coronel ran into on the following lap, losing a position to Gianni Morbidelli which he retook as the race was under a full-course caution.
López immediately launched his race-winning attack on Tarquini as the sprint to the finish line resumed, passing the Italian with his now-trademark move around the outside of Turn 9. He went on to win by 1.7 seconds, with Monteiro crossing the line in third a further second adrift.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Austria – Race 2 Classification (17 laps):
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||51:59.898||TC1|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 1.683||TC1|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 2.554||TC1|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 3.651||TC1|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 3.908||TC1|
|6.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 4.466||TC1|
|7.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 4.758||TC1|
|8.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 5.418||TC1|
|9.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 10.074||TC1|
|10.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 15.288||TC1|
|11.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 27.754||TC2|
|12.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 35.070||TC2|
|13.||John Filippi*||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:04.568||TC2|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||6 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||1 lap||TC1|
|DNF.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||0 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||0 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||0 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||0 laps||TC1|
* Denotes 30-second time penalty applied post-race for false start
Images via FIA WTCC Media