Former World Touring Car Championship winner Gabriele Tarquini has claimed his second win of the 2016 season with victory in the opening race of the season-ending round at the Losail circuit in Qatar.
The Italian veteran crossed the finish line almost seven seconds ahead of Tom Chilton’ Citroën and Honda’s Rob Huff in a race interrupted by a red flag following an opening-lap accident for Huff’s teammate Tiago Monteiro.
Chilton had started his Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën from pole position in the reversed-grid opening race and held his lead at the start from Tarquini, while a fast-starting Huff managed to squeeze into third place after Monteiro forced the Englishman onto the grass on the run to Turn 1.
Monteiro had hoped for a solid result to challenge for the runner’s up spot in the Drivers’ Championship standings, but his narrow hopes were dealt a fatal blow further around the opening lap when he was turned across the nose of José María López’s Citroën at Turn 7. The contact saw the Portugese driver tipped into the path of Hugo Valente’s LADA, putting both into retirement.
Valente was able to limp back to the pits for repairs and managed a late return to the track to check his car out ahead of tonight’s final race, but the same could not be said for Monteiro. His rear suspension shattered, race officials were forced to call for a Safety Car and then elected to suspend the race completely to safely remove his stricken Honda from the track.
The stoppage lasted just 15 minutes before racing could resume with a rolling start. Tarquini got the better exit off the final corner at the restart and forced Chilton to defend aggressively into Turn 1. The Englishman succumbed by out-braking himself into the corner to hand the lead and victory to Tarquini, who promptly sprinted away to build an unassailable lead in LADA’s final WTCC outing.
Later on the same lap, Norbert Michelisz’s Honda made contact with the Polestar Volvo of Robert Dahlgren as they disputed fourth place, which bumped the Swede behind his teammate and compatriot Thed Björk – the enterprising Yvan Muller stayed out of the fracas and managed to pass all three of them in one go to move into fourth.
With Tarquini disappearing into the distance, Chilton was left to spend the rest of his race fending off the attentions of Huff. Despite Huff’s best efforts, he couldn’t find a way past his fellow countryman and had to settle for third place, vaulting him ahead of Tarquini in the Drivers’ Championship standings in the process.
Muller, Michelisz, Björk and Dahlgren crossed the line with their order unchanged, while Nicky Catsburg claimed eighth in his LADA after an aggressive pass on James Thompson’s Münnich Chevrolet at Turn 16. The move was investigated by the Stewards, who later ruled that the Dutchman had no case to answer.
Thompson was later overtaken by López, who recovered after his scrappy opening lap to claim ninth place in his penultimate WTCC outing.
|2016 FIA WTCC Race of Qatar – Race 1 Final Classification (14 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Gabriele Tarquini||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||14||46:16.258|
|2.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 5.321|
|3.||Rob Huff||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 5.930|
|4.||Yvan Muller||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 7.608|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||14||+ 9.070|
|6.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||14||+ 9.675|
|7.||Robert Dahlgren||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||14||+ 10.255|
|8.||Nick Catsburg||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||14||+ 10.871|
|9.||José María López||Citroën Racing WTCC C-Elysée||14||+ 11.591|
|10.||James Thompson||Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 15.375|
|11.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||14||+ 16.274|
|12.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 16.721|
|13.||Ferenc Ficza||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||14||+ 17.227|
|14.||John Filippi||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||14||+ 21.173|
|15.||Grégoire Demoustier||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 28.724|
|16.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||14||+ 30.548|
|NC.||Hugo Valente||LADA Sport Rosneft Vesta WTCC||4||+ 10 laps|
|DNF.||Tiago Monteiro||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||0||Collision|
Images via FIA WTCC
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