Gabriele Tarquini has given LADA its first 1-2 finish as the Russian carmaker dominated proceedings on home soil in a rain-hit opening race at Moscow Raceway.

The 2009 WTCC title-winner put in a storming drive from ninth on the grid, slicing his way through the field to win ahead of teammate and Sunday’s Main Race pole-sitter Nicky Catsburg.

After their emphatic 1-2-3 in qualifying on Saturday, the three LADAs started in eighth, ninth and tenth for the reversed-grid opening race. Tiago Monteiro’s Honda was on pole position, ahead of the Citroëns of Mehdi Bennani and Yvan Muller.

The threatening clouds opened as the field headed out for its formation lap, forcing race officials to delay the start and declare the race wet to allow the grid to change to wet-weather tyres.

The race was restarted after a 15-minute pause and Monteiro lead the way into Turn 1 from Muller. The set-up of the Hondas still hadn’t been fully sorted, and it took just a matter of corners before Monteiro had been passed by Muller and the fellow Citroëns of Bennani and team-mate José María López.

Monteiro was disposed of by the rapid Tarquini before the end of the first lap; the Italian was looking mightily quick in the slippery conditions.

López was his next victim before the end of the second lap – the two made light contact in the move – while Tarquini’s teammates Catsburg and Hugo Valente were similarly making progress in his wake, with Catsburg moving into fifth ahead of Monteiro by the end of Lap 3.

Tarquini made short order of Bennani on the same lap, leaving just Muller as the sole obstacle to victory. Tarquini caught the Frenchman within two laps and swept ahead of the four-time series champion on the fifth lap, before stretching his legs to open up an eight-second lead.

Catsburg soon caught Muller, who predictably made the Dutchman’s task of passing much harder than he had done for Tarquini a few laps before. The pair dueled for several laps before Catsburg forced his way by, but the quicker Dutchman ran out of time to close up and challenge Tarquini.

Muller held on to third, with the third LADA of Valente running out of laps to threaten after he overtook López. Behind the Argentinean came Bennani, which meant that the Moroccan’s gap to the defending champion opened to 102 points – Muller’s third place meant he was now 110 points adrift.

Monteiro finished a disappointing sixth ahead of teammate Rob Huff, while James Thompson claimed the independent class win by finishing eighth in his Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet.

2016 FIA WTCC Race of Russia – Race 1 Final Classification (15 laps)
Driver Team / Entry Laps Result
1. Gabriele Tarquini it LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 15 29:39.384
2. Nick Catsburg nl LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 15 + 4.782
3. Yvan Muller fr Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée 15 + 16.062
4. Hugo Valente LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC 15 + 23.683
5. José María López Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée 15 + 28.092
6. Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 15 + 28.803
7. Rob Huff uk Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 15 + 29.266
8. James Thompson uk Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze 15 + 30.164
9. Mehdi Bennani Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 15 + 35.037
10. Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC 15 + 43.985
11. John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze 15 + 47.000
12. Tom Coronel nl ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze 15 + 51.753
13. Fredrik Ekblom Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 15 + 53.227
14. Tom Chilton uk Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 15 + 59.620
15. Ferenc Ficza Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC 15 + 1:01.302
16. Grégoire Demoustier fr Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée 15 + 1:04.878
Not Classified
DNF. Thed Björk^ Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1 volvo 9 Mechanical

Image via FIA WTCC

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.