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||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||15||29:39.384|
|2.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||15||+ 4.782|
|3.||Yvan Muller||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||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||15||+ 29.266|
|8.||James Thompson||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||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||15||+ 51.753|
|13.||Fredrik Ekblom||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||15||+ 53.227|
|14.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||15||+ 59.620|
|15.||Ferenc Ficza||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||15||+ 1:01.302|
|16.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||15||+ 1:04.878|
|DNF.||Thed Björk^||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||9||Mechanical|
Image via FIA WTCC