Yvan Muller has beaten Citroën teammate Sébastien Loeb to the FIA WTCC runner-up placing in the Drivers’ Championship by a single point after claiming victory in Friday night’s second race in the series’ final round of the season in Qatar.
The Frenchman’s victory followed that of a dominant showing by teammate and newly-crowned double World Champion José María López, who cruised to victory in the opening race under floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.
There were further celebrations among the privateer runners, with Norbert Michelisz claiming his second Yokohama Independent Trophy title by just four points over Mehdi Bennani. The latter finished a fine second in Race 1, only for Michelisz to return serve in Race 2, with his class victory ensuring the Hungarian would claim the crown.
Race 1: López scorches the field
José María López equalled his record of ten race wins in a single season with a dominant lights-to-flag drive to victory in Friday night’s opening race at the Losail International Circuit.
The Argentine held his own from pole position, holding out the fellow Citroëns of Sébastien Loeb and Mehdi Bennani at the first turn before quickly building an unassailable lead to win by over seven seconds.
Loeb made the best of starts to briefly get the jump on Bennani into Turn 1, but the Frenchman made a mistake at Turn 2 to allow the Moroccan and the Campos Racing Chevrolet of Hugo Valente by into second and third places respectively.
The top four ran in that order for the rest of the race, with the remaining Citroëns of Ma Qing Hua and Yvan Muller staging their own private battle in fifth and sixth places. Try as he might, Muller was unable to pressure the Chinese driver into a mistake.
Norbert Michelisz picked up seventh overall in his Honda, but it resulted in third place in the Independent Trophy class and the loss of vital championship points to his rival Bennani ahead of the final race of the season. With the gap trimmed to just 2 points, the Hungarian needed to beat Bennani in Race 2 in order to claim a second title.
The top ten finishers were rounded out by Tiago Monteiro (Honda), Nick Catsburg (LADA) and Stefano D’Aste (Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet), only for D’Aste to subsequently be given a post-race penalty for jumping the start. That promoted LADA rookie Nicolas Lapierre into tenth place.
The only drama of note in what was a very dull race came from Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini, who spun off on the first lap and dropped to dead last. Carrying an extra 40kg of competition ballast, the Italian’s car proved to be a handful and he remained mired at the back of the field, only getting by local driver Nasser Al-Attiyah before the chequered flag.
|2015 FIA WTCC Race of Qatar – Race 1 Final Classification (12 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||12||24:33.158|
|2.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||12||+ 7.631|
|3.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 11.774|
|4.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||12||+ 12.717|
|5.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||12||+ 18.815|
|6.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||12||+ 19.343|
|7.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||12||+ 20.064|
|8.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||12||+ 22.700|
|9.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||12||+ 24.397|
|10.||Nicolas Lapierre||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||12||+ 31.613|
|11.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 34.224|
|12.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||12||+ 34.530|
|13.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 35.129|
|14.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 36.178|
|15.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||12||+ 37.292|
|16.||Nasser Al-Attiyah||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 39.646|
|17.||Stefano D’Aste^||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||12||+ 55.426|
|18.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||11||+ 1 lap|
^ Stefano D’Aste – who was originally classified in tenth place – was issued a post-race drive-through penalty (applied as a 30-second time penalty) for jumping the start.
Race 2: Muller crowned runner-up with victory
Four-time series champion Yvan Muller claimed his sixth race win of the season, managing to claw back the 12-point deficit to teammate Sébastien Loeb to claim runner-up spot in the Drivers’ Championship standings from his French compatriot by 1 point.
Starting Race 2 from third place, Muller’s run to victory was made slightly easier before the start of the race thanks to front-row starter Tom Coronel suffering an oil leak in his ROAL Motorsports Chevrolet. The Dutchman was forced to leave from the pit lane after the necessary repairs could not be carried out in time.
Muller’s next stroke of luck came when pole-sitter John Filippi’s Campos Chevrolet crept on the grid before the lights went out, giving the young Corsican a drive-through penalty.
Filippi managed to keep the lead from Muller and Ma into Turn 1, but behind them there was drama as the pack tried to funnel through the right-hander. Nick Catsburg’s fast-starting LADA was hit from behind, breaking the Dutchman’s rear suspension and sending him into the path of the unsighted Stefano D’Aste.
The two cars collided and were out on the spot and the Safety Car was called so they could be moved off the circuit. It was a lengthy interruption and the race didn’t restart until Lap 6.
Filippi was quickly overwhelmed by Muller as the pair crossed the start/finish line, but tried to argue the point too much into Turn 1 and chopped across the veteran’s nose as he swung to the apex of the corner.
The contact punted Filippi into a spin, and he spent the rest of the race touring at the back of the field after recovering back onto the circuit and serving his pit lane drive-through penalty for his jumped start.
Muller was then left to cruise to victory ahead of Ma, while Michelisz claimed third place and the Independent Trophy crown. The Hungarian fended off repeated attacks from Loeb, consigning the French rally ace to being demoted to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings as a result of Muller’s victory.
Mehdi Bennani and Hugo Valente rounded out the top-six, ahead of Gabriele Tarquini of José María López, who lost a number of places trying to dodge the Catsburg/D’Aste contact on the opening lap and spent the rest of his race trying to carve his way back up the order.
|2015 FIA WTCC Race of Qatar – Race 2 Final Classification (14 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||14||32:47.712|
|2.||Ma Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 5.264|
|3.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||14||+ 6.340|
|4.||Sébastien Loeb||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 7.243|
|5.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 7.788|
|6.||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 10.145|
|7.||Gabriele Tarquini||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 10.650|
|8.||José María López||Citroën Total WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 11.682|
|9.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 15.098|
|10.||Nicolas Lapierre||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||14||+ 16.975|
|11.||Grégoire Demoustier||Craft-Bamboo Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 19.243|
|12.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 20.580|
|13.||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 21.655|
|14.||Nasser Al-Attiyah||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 26.965|
|15.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 57.065|
|16.||Rob Huff||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||9||Brakes|
|DNF.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Stefano D’Aste||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||0||Collision|
Images via FIA WTCC Media