Citroën swept to yet another championship round rout at this weekend’s World Touring Car Championship event at Moscow Raceway, with José María López claiming victory in the opener from pole position.
The victor of the second race was, however, a little more surprising: the French marque’s fourth driver, Ma Qing Hua, won on his series debut.
Race 1: Lopez extends title lead with victory
José María López claimed his fourth win of the WTCC season, surviving an early challenge from Gabriele Tarquini before easing away to secure victory over the Italian by three seconds.
López looked under threat of being unable to convert his pole position into the lead off the line when the two Hondas of Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro got away better, but the Argentine held his nerve around the outside of Tarquini through the Turn 1 left-hander and kept in front. López’s Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb managed a similar move on Monteiro to slot into third.
From that point on, López was never seriously threatened and created a small gap over the Italian, who spent the rest of the race doing his customary trick of making his Honda as wide as possible in his efforts to keep Loeb at bay. Monteiro, meanwhile, found himself facing off similar advances from the third Citroën of defending series champion Yvan Muller.
It was a disastrous race for the Campos Racing team. Dušan Borković suffered a repeat of the steering failure that had plagued him in qualifying the day before, causing him to lose control and slam into innocent teammate Hugo Valente at the final corner. Both cars were eliminated on the spot, with the team facing a frantic effort to repair Valente’s car in time for Race 2, which he was starting from pole position.
On the fourth lap, Muller managed to get a run on Monteiro under braking at the final corner, but both ran wide in their efforts to be the last of the late brakers. That allowed Tom Chilton to nip by in his ROAL Chevrolet, while Muller managed to get the power down a little better than Monteiro and secure a net fifth in the mayhem.
Monteiro rejoined in seventh behind debutante Ma Qing Hua, who’d quietly worked his way up from his ninth-placed starting position.
Muller secured fourth in a thrilling last-lap pass on Chilton which took three corners to complete. Chilton’s teammate Tom Coronel finished eighth – a fine effort given his qualifying woes on Saturday – ahead of Norbert Michelisz, while Rob Huff gave the local crowd some cheer by claiming the final points position with tenth.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Russia – Race 1 Classification (16 laps):
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||27:05.120||TC1|
|2.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 3.170||TC1|
|3.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 3.425||TC1|
|4.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 5.902||TC1|
|5.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 6.816||TC1|
|6.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 7.505||TC1|
|7.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 13.099||TC1|
|8.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 15.061||TC1|
|9.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 24.766||TC1|
|10.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 27.754||TC1|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 28.067||TC1|
|12.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 28.579||TC1|
|13.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 29.323||TC1|
|14.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 35.188||TC1|
|15.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 38.472||TC1|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:12.432||TC2|
|17.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:24.023||TC2|
|18.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:37.942||TC2|
|DNF.||Nikita Misiulia||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||7 laps||TC2|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1 lap||TC1|
|DNF.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||1 lap||TC1|
Race 2: Another rookie shines
Series rookie Ma Qing Hua wasn’t expected to showcase much in his first few WTCC hit-outs, but he made an instant impression in just his second ever race by claiming victory and leading a Citroën 1-2 ahead of teammate and reigning champion Yvan Muller.
After a relatively tame opener, it was a tense race to finish off the weekend. The drama kicked off before the race even began, with the Campos Racing squad facing an uphill battle to repair Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet Cruze – damaged in an embarrassing ‘friendly fire’ collision with teammate Dušan Borković – in time so the Frenchman could take the grid from pole position.
The team had his car released from the pit lane just four seconds before it closed so he could make it onto the dummy grid, however his mechanics failed to fit his wheels back on in time on the dummy grid and so he faced a certain drive-through penalty once the race got underway.
Valente quickly skipped off into the lead at the start, while fellow front-row starter Ma was passed on the run into Turn 1 by the Zengõ Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz.
Further back, Race 1 winner José María López stalled on the line as his gearbox jammed, marking his first DNF of the season and potentially damaging the extended points lead he’d mustered in the opening exchange.
Chief championship rival Yvan Muller had the opportunity to make inroads on his teammate’s points lead, but he was knocked into a slide by the Proteam Honda of Mehdi Bennani and fell to eighth at the first corner.
The Frenchman showed plenty of his usual grit, picking his way forward from there past Tom Chilton’s ROAL Chevrolet before diving past the three Hondas of Bennani, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro in a single move to claim fourth!
That became third when Valente was issued his drive-through, by which point Ma had assumed the lead after an exciting battle with Michelisz, finally getting by the Hungarian after repeated dive-bombing moves at the final corner.
The Chinese driver went on to win, with Muller (having also passed Michelisz’s tyre-hungry Civic) running out of laps to overhaul his younger teammate.
Inexplicably, Citroën management did not take the logical step of imposing team orders by insisting that Ma – who won’t be a factor in the championship race – move over for Muller and give the Frenchman a further 7 points towards his title defence. As it was, the four-time champion leaves Moscow with exactly the same points deficit to López as he arrived. While he was no doubt pleased to see López fail to score and the youngster Ma take the win, he can’t have been impressed with the fact that his second-placed finish was little more than a damage limitation exercise.
Mehdi Bennani took his battle-scarred Honda to third place, while Michelisz tumbled all the way to seventh behind Tom Coronel (who staged another mighty charge through the field), Sébastien Loeb and Tom Chilton. Gianni Morbidelli finished eighth ahead of the penalty-hit Valente, while René Münnich closed out the points-paying positions.
There would be no further points results for LADA, with local youngster Mikhail Kozlovskiy eliminated after an awkward tangle with teammate James Thompson. Former champion Rob Huff also retired his Granta, as did the works Honda pairing of Monteiro and Tarquini.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Russia – Race 2 Classification (16 laps):
|1.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||27:11.310||TC1|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 1.161||TC1|
|3.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 12.252||TC1|
|4.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 12.424||TC1|
|5.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 14.725||TC1|
|6.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 14.890||TC1|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 15.118||TC1|
|8.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 19.894||TC1|
|9.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 20.157||TC1|
|10.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 20.894||TC1|
|11.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 26.813||TC1|
|12.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 31.686||TC1|
|13.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:03.478||TC2|
|14.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:15.843||TC2|
|15.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:27.553||TC2|
|16.||Nikita Misiulia||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:35.889||TC2|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||11 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||10 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||7 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||0 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||0 laps||TC1|
Images via FIA WTCC Media
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