José María López has headlined a remarkable recovery for the works Citroën Racing team after its disastrous opening race performance with victory in Sunday’s second race at the Hungaroring.
The French carmaker failed to score a single point in the race for the first time in its history of competing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship after a costly tyre strategy call.
Those errors were forgotten with a return to its usual position of domination, with López winning an action-packed race ahead of his teammate Yvan Muller.
Muller spent much of his race embroiled in a tense battle for second place with Honda’s Rob Huff, which was resolved in his favour when the Honda driver was awarded a highly contentious drive-through penalty after the former teammates made light contact at Turn 2.
After qualifying on pole position with a record-breaking lap, López converted that into the lead at the start. Muller put in one of his customary blinding getaways to rocket up to third from seventh on the grid, and seconds later he was in second place when Tom Coronel’s Chevrolet was nudged wide in the tightly-bunched scrum through Turns 1 and 2.
That moved Huff into third place ahead of the sister Honda of Tiago Monteiro, although the Portugese driver found himself bundled down to fifth at Turn 5 after Race 1 winner Mehdi Bennani tried a very optimistic lunge up the inside that was only going to end in contact between the pair.
Bennani was awarded the race’s first drive-through penalty as the stewards flexed their proverbial muscle, while more was to follow…
The race was briefly paused behind the Safety Car after Grégoire Demoustier’s Citroën crashed out hard at Turn 1 – fortunately without injury to the Frenchman – and when the green flags were waved Muller was quickly onto the back of López and putting the two-time champion under pressure. López wasn’t going to roll over, and as the pair held each other up that allowed Huff to close.
Huff sensed his opportunity and took his chance as Muller had a slower exit at Turn 1, drawing to the outside of the Frenchman on the run to Turn 2. Muller squeezed Huff towards the track edge, deliberately forcing Huff wide in his bid to stop being passed, and the two touched.
Muller was pushed wide, allowing Huff through, and immediately howled in protest over the pit-to-car radio despite the general consensus being that it was a racing incident triggered by questionable driving from the Frenchman.
Incredibly the stewards saw fit to punish Huff with a drive-through penalty that dropped him down to ninth position – he would charge back to finish sixth – but the damage had been done.
López was given a clean break by the drama behind and was able to stoke ti victory ahead of Muller, while Monteiro finished third ahead of Volvo’s Thed Björk to limit López’s championship lead to 12 points exiting this weekend.
Tom Chilton finished fifth and the best-placed Independent class driver, surviving a last-lap attack from the charging Norbert Michelisz – whose Honda was miraculously repaired in time to make the start of the race. The Hungarian driver slide through the gravel and rejoined in front of an unsighted Coronel, with the contact between the pair breaking Michelisz’s steering. He would hobble across the line in tenth position.
The fourth round of the championship takes place at Marrakech in two weeks’ time.
|2016 FIA WTCC Race of Hungary – Race 2 Final Classification (17 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||José María López||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||17||38:37.180|
|2.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||17||+ 2.821|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||17||+ 14.981|
|4.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||17||+ 18.026|
|5.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||17||+ 19.834|
|6.||Rob Huff||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||17||+ 24.535|
|7.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||17||+ 26.979|
|8.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||17||+ 27.898|
|9.||Hugo Valente||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||17||+ 36.557|
|10.||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||17||+ 36.867|
|11.||Fredrik Ekblom||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||17||+ 42.681|
|12.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||17||+ 50.959|
|13.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||17||+ 58.529|
|14.||Ferenc Ficza||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||17||+ 1:13.924|
|15.||René Münnich||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||15||+ 2 laps|
|DNF.||Gabriele Tarquini||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||5||Mechanical|
|DNF.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||2||Accident|
Image via FIA WTCC
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