Yvan Muller and Tiago Monteiro have claimed a win apiece in an entertaining encounter for the World Touring Car Championship field at Moscow Raceway, but undoubtedly the biggest talking point of Sunday’s two races was the remarkable resurgence of the LADA factory team.
Race 1: Muller leads a Citroën 1-2
Race 1 saw Muller take his third win of the 2015 season in typically controlled fashion, leading from lights to flag to beat Citroën teammate and championship leader José María López by three seconds.
For the first time this season, López has had no answer to his four-time WTCC title-winning teammate. The wily Frenchman had narrowly pipped López to pole position in qualifying the day before, and in race conditions he just steadily drove away, leaving the Argentine driver to fend off Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini and the Lada Vesta of Rob Huff.
The start of the 16-lap race was relatively straightforward, with Muller converting pole position into the lead over López, Tarquini and Huff. A fast-starting Ma Qing Hua managed to slot into fifth place in his Citroën, coming at the expense of poor starts for the Chevrolets of Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente.
The opening lap of the race provided the only two incidents of note in what was a largely processional race. Tom Coronel found his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet pirouetting at high speed after he turned across the nose of the LADA Vesta of fellow Dutchman Jaap van Lagen; Coronel rejoined at the rear of the field and struggled to make any headway before retiring his car with a lap to go.
The second incident came a few corners later when Stefano D’Aste in the Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet ran into the back of Mehdi Bennani’s Citroën C-Elysée, punting the Moroccan into a spin. D’Aste was later handed a 30-second post-race time penalty for his antics.
Positions in the top half of the field remained largely unchanged, although Honda’s Tiago Monteiro did manage to put a move on the fourth factory Citroën of Sébastien Loeb for eighth place.
After his opening dramas with Coronel, van Lagen set about his own charge through the field. The LADA driver passed Rickard Rydell’s Nika Honda on the fourth lap, before executing identical late-braking lunges on Hugo Valente and series debutante Nick Catsburg en route to securing the final points’ paying position in tenth.
Up at the front, Muller had a trouble-free run to victory, trimming the points’ gap to teammate López to 43 points. The reigning champion had to contend with the attentions of Tarquini and Huff for the entire race, with Huff left frustrated at being unable to find a way past into third in his clearly quicker Vesta.
You can watch the full recording of Race 1 by clicking here.
|2015 FIA WTCC Rosneft Race of Russia – Race 1 Final Classification (16 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||27:04.214|
|2.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 2.933|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||16||+ 4.392|
|4.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||16||+ 4.684|
|5.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 7.082|
|6.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 8.724|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||16||+ 10.394|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||16||+ 12.809|
|9.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 13.463|
|10.||Jaap van Lagen||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||16||+ 14.044|
|11.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||16||+ 18.239|
|12.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 20.870|
|13.||Rickard Rydell||NIKA Racing Honda Civic WTCC||16||+ 24.517|
|14.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||16||+ 33.791|
|15.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 41.523|
|16.||Stefano D’Aste^||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 1:06.562|
|17.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||15||Mechanical|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||9||Radiator|
^ D’Aste – originally classified in fifteenth place – was awarded a 30-second post-race time penalty for causing a collision with Bennani
Race 2: Monteiro breaks 19-month victory drought in a chaotic race
As has typically been the case this season, the reversed grid Race 2 provides far more action, and Sunday afternoon’s second leg at Moscow Raceway proved to be no exception as the field delivered an action-packed affair.
After qualifying tenth-fastest, Tiago Monteiro took full advantage of the pole position it gave him to break a near two-year winless drought in his Honda, holding off a strong challenge from Rob Huff’s LADA by denying the Russian carmaker a popular home victory.
Victory for Monteiro came thanks to a perfect start and a bit of assistance from the privateer Zengő Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz, who slotted into second place at Turn 1 by getting the jump on rookie driver Nick Catsburg.
Having not had to make a standing start in years, Catsburg did well to only lose one place off the front row, and fended off the attentions of a fast-starting Ma Qing Hua through the next sequence of corners. The Chinese driver outfumbled himself by being on the wrong side of the track, and lost a spot to Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet as well, falling back to fifth place.
Further back, there was a terrific scrap for tenth place etween Citroën frontrunners José María López and Yvan Muller, with the pair running side-by-side through the opening corners on the second lap. López would emerge the winner, but his joy was short-lived when the stewards issued him a drive-through penalty for a jumped start.
The man on the move was Rob Huff, who was out to give LADA its first podium in a clearly rapid new car. The Englishman had the added motivation of competing at the team’s home track, and quickly set about disposing of fifth-placed Ma and a rapidly gripless Valente for fourth. Rookie teammate Catsburg offered no resistance in handing him third place at the final turn, leaving Huff with the task of overcoming the two Hondas of Michelisz and Monteiro to claim victory.
Ultimately, Huff would fall short. Having shadowed Monteiro for the entire race , Michelisz’s pace dropped as Huff approached on the back of the duo and the Hungarian made life tough for the LADA driver. It took two laps and a bit of side-panel rubbing before Huff managed to get by into second place, but by that point Monteiro was far enough up the road to be unchallenged.
Catsburg went on to claim a fine fourth in an assured debut, surviving an aggressive move from Gabriele Tarquini that resulted in the veteran driver’s Honda being beached in the gravel with snapped rear suspension.
Ma finished in fifth place ahead of teammate Muller, who ran behind the battling Loeb and Valente until a botched passing move from the former allowed him to slip ahead of his fellow Frenchmen. With López finishing out of the points courtesy of his drive-through penalty, Muller managed to further trim the gap to the Argentine to 35 points ahead of the next round at the Slovakia Ring in two weeks’ time.
You can watch the full recording of Race 2 by clicking here.
|2015 FIA WTCC Rosneft Race of Russia – Race 2 Final Classification (16 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||16||27:12.922|
|2.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||16||+ 3.155|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||16||+ 5.549|
|4.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||16||+ 8.074|
|5.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 12.188|
|6.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 14.674|
|7.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 18.010|
|8.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 20.803|
|9.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 20.968|
|10.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||15||+ 21.207|
|11.||Rickard Rydell||NIKA Racing Honda Civic WTCC||16||+ 21.686|
|12.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||16||+ 24.659|
|13.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 29.019|
|14.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 31.584|
|15.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||16||+ 34.404|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||6||Accident|
|DNF.||Jaap van Lagen||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||5||Suspension|
|DNF.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||4||Mechanical|
Images via FIA WTCC Media
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