José María López has moved to an almost insurmountable 60-point lead in the FIA World Touring Car Championship standings after completing a total rout of his home round at Argentina. The Citroën driver cantered to an easy win in the opening race, before powering his way through to victory from tenth on the grid in Race 2.
Race 1: López cruises in lights-to-flag win
Crowd favourite José María López delighted his home fans with a comfortable lights-to-flag victory in Sunday’s opening 13-lap race, with the result taking him to a 50-point lead over his nearest championship rival, teammate Yvan Muller. The French veteran finished third behind Norbert Michelisz’s Honda.
It was Michelisz who made the best start when the lights went out, slicing his Honda ahead of the Citroëns of Muller and Sébastien Loeb on the run into Turn 1. Fellow Honda runner Tiago Monteiro also caught Muller and Loeb napping off the line, and he too managed to force his way down the inside to claim third place.
The Portuguese driver’s hold on the position was fleeting, however, as Muller quickly moved ahead further around the lap. Loeb sought to capitalise as well, running side-by-side with Monteiro through a few corners before chopping ahead of the ex-F1 driver with an aggressive move.
The top-five ran in that order for the remainder of the race to finish ahead of Tom Chilton in the leading Chevrolet; Muller pulled clear of Loeb and shadowed Michelisz’s every move for the remainder of the race but was ultimately unable to find a way by. Their battling allowed López to calmly drive to victory – his second in a row on home soil a year on from his groundbreaking debut.
Behind the leading sextet, there was plenty of action. Rob Huff mirrored the Hondas with a lightning getaway in his LADA; the Englishman gained three places from his tenth-placed starting position to move into seventh and held the position for the remainder of the race. It was his best finish since his rain-assisted fifth place at Paul Ricard, and suggested that the (thus far) underperforming Granta had made significant strides.
The Russian carmaker managed to get two of its cars into the points for just the second time all season, with James Thompson snatching tenth place on the final after Tom Coronel ran wide in his ill-handling ROAL Chevrolet. Huff and Thompson sandwiched the Hondas of Gabriele Tarquini and Mehdi Bennani.
The third LADA of Mikhail Kozlovskiy was also in the thick of the action. The Russian hit the right-rear of Hugo Valente’s Campos Chevrolet early on, forcing the Frenchman into an early retirement for precautionary checks – a wise move given he had a front-row start for Race 2 and couldn’t afford to breach parc fermé regulations with undue repairs in the very short turnaround time beforehand.
It was a poor race for the Campos squad’s TC1 outfit, as Valente’s teammate Dušan Borković was the race’s only other retiree after he suffered a left-rear puncture.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 1 Classification (13 laps):
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||23:10.174||TC1|
|2.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 2.526||TC1|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 3.271||TC1|
|4.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 7.613||TC1|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 8.871||TC1|
|6.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 9.508||TC1|
|7.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 13.893||TC1|
|8.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 14.494||TC1|
|9.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 17.929||TC1|
|10.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 25.133||TC1|
|11.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 25.272||TC1|
|12.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 26.707||TC1|
|13.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 27.483||TC1|
|14.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 29.031||TC1|
|15.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:18.040||TC2|
|16.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||+ 1:26.442||TC2|
|17.||Camilo Echevarría||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||– 1 lap||TC2|
|DNF.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||8 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||7 laps||TC1|
Race 2: López does the double with Race 2 win
If López has proven anything – aside from his outstanding racing skills – it’s that he simply won’t let the opportunity for extra championship points go begging.
The Argentine became the first driver this season to claim the maximum 55 points on offer – wins in both races and pole position – which, despite Citroën’s utter dominance of the championship, is a feat in itself.
For the fourth time this season, he carved his way through the field in the second race of the weekend, a much tougher ask than in Race 1 given the top-ten qualifiers’ grid positions are reversed.
With Rob Huff and Hugo Valente starting from the front row, it was Huff who scampered away into the lead while a slow-starting Valente was overtaken by the Hondas of Mehdi Bennani, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro.
Of the Citroën runners, Sébastien Loeb was the best-placed of the trio starting from eighth but he once again found himself outgunned by teammates Yvan Muller and López.
Muller ran his compatriot out wide as he started to work his way forward, and López quickly followed suit.
Muller’s next target on the opening lap was the Zengõ Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz, but he picked the wrong way to pass the Hungarian. Trying to pass Michelisz around the outside, the door was left open for López to slot by on the inside of the pair, and he needed no second invitation to slot into seventh place.
Up at the front, an energised Huff was managing to pull away from the three chasing Hondas, which made it clear that the only way he was going to be deprived of a surprise win was by mechanical intervention or if he was caught by the Citroëns.
López worked his way past Valente’s Chevrolet on the second lap, while the factory Hondas of Tarquini and Monteiro managed to dispose of Bennani’s privateer Honda.
Bennani found himself under attack from Tom Chilton’s Chevrolet, and as the Englishman lined up to get by the Moroccan, an enterprising López used the extra slipstream to get by the pair of them and into fourth on Lap 5.
A lap later and he was ahead of the two remaining Hondas and into second place, which left him with the remaining seven laps of the race to overhaul Huff’s 2.5-second lead.
He needed just two of those laps, and on Lap 9 he blasted by the LADA on the back straight and then cruised to his third win in a row, his seventh of the 2014 season.
Further behind, Muller found his progress slowed by a determined Chilton, but the Frenchman eventually got by and then moved quickly ahead of the two Hondas to be third. Ultimately, he ran out of laps to do anything about Huff and had to settle for another 10-point hit to his dwindling hopes of claiming a fifth WTCC title.
Huff finished a jubilant second to claim LADA’s first ever WTCC podium, while Tarquini and Monteiro rounded out the top five. Loeb finished sixth, having eliminated Chilton from the race after contact between the pair.
2014 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 2 Classification (13 laps):
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||23:16.716||TC1|
|2.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 1.863||TC1|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 2.896||TC1|
|4.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 5.311||TC1|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 5.893||TC1|
|6.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Racing C-Elysée||+ 6.523||TC1|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 6.978||TC1|
|8.||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing Honda Civic WTCC||+ 16.464||TC1|
|9.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 16.810||TC1|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 22.790||TC1|
|11.||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil Granta Sport||+ 23.683||TC1|
|12.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 29.022||TC1|
|13.||Gianni Morbidelli||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 38.501||TC1|
|14.||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||+ 1:06.948||TC2|
|15.||John Filippi||Campos Racing SEAT León WTCC||– 1 lap||TC2|
|16.||Camilo Echevarría*||Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC||– 1 lap||TC2|
|DQ.||Dušan Borković||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||TC1|
|DNF.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||5 laps||TC1|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||5 laps||TC1|
*Echevarría was issued a post-race time penalty for colliding with Filippi; Borković was disqualified when his car failed post-race scrutineering.
Images via FIA WTCC Media
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