Defending series champion Yvan Muller managed to take two points out of Citroën teammate José María López’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings after finishing with a win and a second-placed finish on Sunday’s two World Touring Car Championship races at Spa-Francorchamps. López managed another of his fighting charges through the field to claim victory in Race 2.
Race 1: Muller claims lights-to-flag win
Yvan Muller took a fairly comfortable victory in Sunday’s opening race, blasting away from the field from pole position to head another all-Citroën podium. Teammates López and Sébastien Loeb battled throughout for second place, with López eventually emerging victorious after passing the French rally ace on the final lap with a brilliant overtaking move.
The race saw action aplenty behind Muller, who hooked up a good start and quickly set about building enough of a buffer from Loeb and López so they couldn’t gain any slipstream advantage.
Further back, Hugo Valente’s Campos Chevrolet suffered contact from the Honda of Gabriele Tarquini at La Source; the Frenchman was pushed wide at the exit and ran side-by-side with Tarquini through Eau Rouge. Tarquini was, in turn, forced wide at Radillon after he had to lift off the throttle and lost several places on the dash to the Les Combes chicane.
Valente was controversially awarded a drive-through penalty for using the run-off at La Source, and that promoted a fast-starting Gianni Morbidelli – pole-sitter for Race 2 – into fourth place, which he kept for the remainder of the race.
Morbidelli came under intense pressure from Tiago Monteiro, who tried to squeeze his Honda past the Italian at the Bus Stop Chicane on the final lap. The Portuguese driver left his braking a little too late, however, and the loss of momentum allowed Morbidelli and Tom Coronel to outdrag him on the sprint to the finish line. Coronel finished just 0.073 seconds ahead, with Monteiro’s fellow Honda runners of Norbert Michelisz and the recovering Tarquini right behind.
The Chevrolets of Dušan Borković and Tom Chilton rounded out the points-paying positions, with both delivering hard-charging drives from the rear of the field. Borković clambered up to ninth from the back of the grid (courtesy of an overnight engine change), while Chilton stalled at the start of the race and fell to last place.
The fourth Citroën of Ma Qing Hua finished just outside the points; the Chinese driver suffered a collapsed windscreen in the closing laps but bravely soldiered on, losing out to Chilton in the final laps.
Valente finished a frustrated twelfth after his drive-through penalty, and was followed over the line by the Proteam Honda of Mehdi Bennani, who’d also been hit with a tour through pit lane for shortcutting the circuit.
The three LADAs of Mikhail Kozlovskiy, Rob Huff and James Thompson brought up the rear of the TC1 class runners. Huff made a blinding getaway, only to throw away his slim chance of a points’ finish with a spin on the opening lap.
The four-car TC2T class was once again headed by Franz Engstler, who continued his undefeated run with a comfortable win ahead of the two Campos SEATs of John Filippi and series debutante Norbert Nagy.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Belgium – Race 1 Classification (9 laps):
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||22:09.364||TC1|
|2.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 3.689||TC1|
|3.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 4.318||TC1|
|4.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 21.125||TC1|
|5.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 21.998||TC1|
|6.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 22.071||TC1|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 23.517||TC1|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 24.350||TC1|
|9.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 30.094||TC1|
|10.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 30.940||TC1|
|11.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 31.821||TC1|
|12.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 39.719||TC1|
|13.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 45.992||TC1|
|14.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 47.654||TC1|
|15.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 48.196||TC1|
|16.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 57.311||TC1|
|17.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 1:09.895||TC1|
|18.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:28.674||TC2|
|19.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:42.573||TC2|
|20.||Norbert Nagy||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:43.916||TC2|
|21.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||– 1 lap||TC2|
Race 2: López consolidates with another hard-charging victory
Citroën’s José María López returned serve over teammate Yvan Muller with victory in Sunday’s second race, giving the field another masterclass in aggressive overtaking after starting from eighth on the grid.
Polesitter Gianni Morbidelli lost his lead on the opening lap after Tom Coronel overtook the Italian’s identical-spec RML-built Chevrolet on the run to Eau Rouge; Tiago Monteiro took his Honda into second place at the end of the Kemmel straight.
Many eyes were on the three frontrunning Citroëns of López, Muller and Sébastien Loeb – all fitted with extra bolts on their windscreens after Ma Qing Hua’s failed in Race 1 – who were quickly working their way up the field.
López biffed his way past Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet at Les Combes on the opening lap to find himself in sixth – and the leading Citroën – by the end of the opening lap; he then swept ahead of Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda on the following lap.
It took a further two laps before he caught and passed Morbidelli’s Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet at the Bus Stop Chicane. He made easy work on Monteiro with a similar move to slot into second place.
Coronel had built himself a small buffer out in the lead, but López quickly wound him in. Coronel gamely defended his position, but there was a sense of inevitability that López would get by, such was the sheer pace of his C-Elysée – the move came after he simply outdragged the Dutchman at the exit of La Source.
Muller was similarly making headway, passing Monteiro’s Honda at Les Combes and then getting ahead of Coronel under braking for the Bus Stop chicane.
Coronel hung on to complete the podium from Monteiro, with the pair coming under threat from Loeb, who had a tougher time making his way through the field from ninth on the grid.
Morbidelli finished sixth, with Norbert Michelisz, Gabriele Tarquini, Hugo Valente and Tom Chilton completing the top ten.
After a retirement-free opening race, there were two DNFs this time around, with Ma Qing Hua and Dušan Borković both peeling into the pits with mechanical issues.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Belgium – Race 2 Classification (9 laps):
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||22:16.645||TC1|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 3.097||TC1|
|3.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 8.409||TC1|
|4.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 8.912||TC1|
|5.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 9.060||TC1|
|6.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 16.851||TC1|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 17.929||TC1|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 19.026||TC1|
|9.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 20.500||TC1|
|10.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 21.187||TC1|
|11.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 22.296||TC1|
|12.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 34.995||TC1|
|13.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 38.692||TC1|
|14.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 39.557||TC1|
|15.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 50.893||TC1|
|16.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:17.281||TC2|
|17.||Pasquale di Sabatino||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:23.029||TC2|
|18.||Norbert Nagy||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:33.065||TC2|
|19.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||– 1 lap||TC2|
|DNF.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||5 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||4 laps||TC1|
Images via FIA WTCC Media