Tom Chilton has claimed Citroën’s first win of the 2017 World Touring Car Championship season, surviving a frenetic opening race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.
The Englishman, driving for Sébastien Loeb Racing, crossed the line just ahead fellow Brit and Citroën driver Rob Huff, while championship leader Tiago Monteiro extended his points’ advantage with third place.
The race was incident-filled before the start. Zengõ Motorsport rookie Aurélien Panis was wheeled back into the garage when his mechanics detected a terminal oil leak in his Honda, meaning the young Frenchman would be missing in action.
ROAL Motorsport driver Tom Coronel was set to start the race from pole, but in an ominous sign of what was to come, the Dutch driver stalled his Chevrolet as the parade lap got underway but managed to restart and get going before the field overtook him.
At the end of the parade lap, the Honda runners were depleted by another runner when Ryo Michigami pulled into the pits with an engine issue in his JAS Motorsports entry.
With the field depleted to fourteen cars, Coronel stalled again as the lights went out and threw away his chances of a potential win to allow Mehdi Bennani a clear run into the lead on the run to the first corner. The Moroccan led from teammate Chilton, with Norbert Michelisz up to third in his factory Honda.
Michelisz overtook Chilton at the start of the second lap, with the Englishman also passed by Polestar Volvo’s Néstor Girolami. Seconds later, however, Girolami slowed with damaged rear suspension, courtesy of being tagged in the right-rear corner by Chilton as they exited the first chicane. He limped back to the pits to have his car repaired in time for the following Main Race.
Bennani looked to be easy meat for Michelisz, who tried to pass the Sébastien Loeb Racing on the third lap as the pair brakes for the Parabolica. Michelisz looked to have the corner, but Bennani inexplicably turned in on the Honda and the pair made contact. Both retired from the race with terminal damage.
The collision proved to be manna from heaven for Chilton, who inherited the lead ahead of Esteban Guerrieri in the Campos Racing Chevrolet and Rob Huff in the Münnich Motorsport Citroën.
Huff overtook Guerrieri on the fifth lap down the start/finish straight and closed on the back of Chilton, however he was unable to find a way past his countryman.
Guerrieri was unable to hand on to third place and was overtaken by Monteiro and Main Race polesitter Thed Björk in the Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo. Björk had a tougher time getting by Guerrieri, who showed tremendous straight-line speed in his Chevrolet, with the Swedish driver overhauling the Morocco race-winner on the sprint to the finish line.
It later turned out that Björk’s pass on Guerrieri did not escape the attention of the stewards, who ruled that the Swede had made contact with Guerrieri that ultimately contributed to him losing the place. He was handed a one-second post-race time penalty as a redress measure.
Yann Ehrlacher showed terrific racecraft to climb to sixth in his RC Motorsport LADA, however the young Frenchman had been handed a 10-second time penalty by the stewards for exceeding the track limits at the start of the race, which dropped him out of the points.
That promoted a frustrated Coronel to sixth ahead of the third SLR Citroën of John Filippi. Nicky Catsburg slipped down the order to finish eighth after damaging the front splitter of his Volvo over the kerbs.
He finished ahead of series debutante Kevin Gleason, who picked up points in his first race in the second RC Motorsport LADA Vesta, with Dániel Nagy also picking up his first championship point by finishing tenth in the sole surviving Zengõ Motorsport Honda.
The Main Race, to be held over 11 laps, follows at 14:15 CET (GMT +2), with Björk on pole position ahead of Monteiro and Huff.
|2017 FIA WTCC Oscaro Race of Italy – Opening Race Final Classification (9 laps)|
|1.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||17:17.330||IND|
|2.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 0.329||IND|
|3.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 2.630||MF|
|4.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 6.899||IND|
|5.||Thed Björk*||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 7.793||MF|
|6.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 11.100||IND|
|7.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 12.928||IND|
|8.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 18.067||MF|
|9.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 18.449||IND|
|10.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 19.200||IND|
|11.||Yann Ehrlacher*||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 20.207||IND|
|DNF.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||Collision||MF|
|DNF.||Mehdi Bennani*||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||Collision||IND|
|DNF.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||Suspension||MF|
|DNS.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||Engine||MF|
|DNS.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||Oil Leak||IND|
* Post-Race Penalties:
- Thed Björk – who was provisionally classified in fourth – was awarded a 1-second post-race time penalty for making avoidable contact with Esteban Guerrieri that caused him to lost track position.
- Yann Ehrlacher – who was provisionally classified in sixth – was awarded a 10-second post-race time penalty for exceeding the track limits
- Mehdi Bennani was awarded a five-place grid penalty for the Opening Race at the next championship round for causing a collision with Norbert Michelisz
Images via FIA WTCC Media