Privateer driver Tom Chilton has claimed his first race win at the wheel of a Citroën. The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver delivered a commanding lights-to-flag drive in Sunday’s opening World Touring Car Championship race at Argentina’s Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo circuit.
Starting from the front row alongside reversed-grid polesitter John Filippi, Chilton out-dragged the Campos Racing Chevrolet driver on the run to the first corner and never looked back. He ultimately crossed the line ahead of fellow Brit Rob Huff in the Honda, who successfully fended off repeated attacks from Citroën’s Yvan Muller in the latter stages of the 13-lap race.
The opening laps of the race saw plenty of wheel-to-wheel action as a number of out-of-position drivers worked their way up the order. Like Chilton, Tiago Monteiro also enjoyed a great getaway at the start, but found himself outfumbled by Chilton on the dash to the circuit’s back straight and was eased wide onto the run-off, dropping from second to fifth as Filippi, Huff and Muller got ahead.
Much of the crowd’s attention was directed to the field’s two local drivers, Citroën’s José María López and Campos Racing wildcard Esteban Guerrieri. The pair had contrasting fortunes.
After starting from the back of the grid due to Citroën electing to change his engine, López grafted hard to pick his way through the field to finish in a fine fifth place. For Guerrieri, however, it was a race to forget: the series debutant showed great pace in the opening laps, before suddenly losing ground with a gear selection problem. His team opted to pit him in the hopes of repairing his car for the day’s forthcoming Main Race, where he starts from fifth place.
Up at the front, a gallant Filippi managed to keep the chasing Huff and Muller at bay until he succumbed to the Honda driver’s relentless pressure by running wide at Turn 1. That was all the invitation Huff needed to slip through, and the loss of momentum allowed Muller and Monteiro to also follow by in a matter of corners.
Filippi would eventually slip back to tenth place, overtaken by the spiritedly battling trio of Norbert Michelisz, Tom Coronel and Mehdi Bennani – fellow Chevrolet runner James Thompson would also demote the luckless Corsican before the chequered flag was unfurled.
Despite López’s strong charge into the top-five, he was outscored by his chief championship rival Monteiro in the final reckoning, but limited the damage to just two points – the pair is separated by 104 points.
|2016 FIA WTCC Race of Argentina – Race 1 Final Classification (13 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||13||23:08.487|
|2.||Rob Huff||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||13||+ 0.792|
|3.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||13||+ 1.384|
|4.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||13||+ 2.471|
|5.||José María López||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||13||+ 7.646|
|6.||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||13||+ 9.897|
|7.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||13||+ 11.528|
|8.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||13||+ 13.150|
|9.||James Thompson||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||13||+ 15.333|
|10.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||13||+ 17.352|
|11.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||13||+ 17.476|
|12.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||13||+ 17.742|
|13.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||13||+ 18.875|
|14.||Gabriele Tarquini||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||13||+ 19.024|
|15.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||13||+ 36.180|
|16.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||12||+ 1 lap|
|DNF.||Hugo Valente||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||7||Power Loss|
|DNF.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||4||Gearbox|
Image via FIA WTCC