Sébastien Loeb Racing driver Mehdi Bennani has become the World Touring Car Championship’s fifth different race-winner in its opening six races by claiming victory in Sunday afternoon’s Main Race at the Hungaroring.
The Moroccan got the jump on polesitter Rob Huff as the lights went out, out-dragging his fellow Citroën driver on the run to the first corner. Huff fell to fourth place behind the Volvos of Néstor Girolami and Nicky Catsburg.
The race was almost immediately neutralised by a Safety Car on the opening lap, triggered by Girolami and Catsburg coming together at Turn 2 which led to the retirement of the former with broken steering.
Replays showed that Catsburg was helped into the side of his teammate thanks to a nudge at the rear by Huff, putting the Münnich Motorsport driver at risk of a potential penalty.
When the race resumed, Bennani was overtaken by Huff with a fine passing move at Turn 9, but the position change ultimately proved academic as the Englishman was soon handed a drive-through penalty for his opening-lap contact.
Bennani resumed in the lead when Huff peeled into the pits at the end of Lap 4, and thereafter managed the gap back to Catsburg over the remainder of the race to claim his first race win since the season finale at Qatar last year.
Catsburg managed to close in on Bennani in the final laps, but with his Polestar Cyan Racing saddled with 80kg of compensation ballast compared to Bennani’s 60kg load, overtaking was going to be a tough ask. The pair crossed the finish line just under seven-tenths of a second apart.
Bennani’s teammate Tom Chilton completed the podium to assume the lead of the WTCC Trophy standings for privateers, denying crowd favourite Norbert Michelisz a podium on home soil.
Behind Michelisz came his Honda teammate Tiago Monteiro, who consolidated his overall lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings in the wake of his victory in the day’s Opening Race.
While Monteiro gained spots relative to his ninth-placed starting position, the reverse happened to one of Saturday’s qualifying stars, Esteban Guerrieri. The Argentine claimed an outstanding third-fastest in his venerable Campos Racing Chevrolet, but suffered a poor start and crossed the line in seventh place ahead of Volvo’s Thed Björk.
Series rookie Yann Ehrlacher had a rather lonely run to eighth ahead of ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel, with Huff recovering from his drive-through penalty to claim the final point in tenth.
Next up, the WTCC field stages its highest-profile round of the season at the historic Nürburgring Nordschleife on May 27.
|2017 FIA WTCC JVC Kenwood Race of Hungary – Main Race Final Classification (17 laps)|
|1.||Mehdi Bennani||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||33:21.822||IND|
|2.||Nick Catsburg||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 0.654||MF|
|3.||Tom Chilton||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 3.553||IND|
|4.||Norbert Michelisz||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 7.309||MF|
|5.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team Civic WTCC||+ 9.532||MF|
|6.||Esteban Guerrieri||Campos Racing Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 10.875||IND|
|7.||Thed Björk||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||+ 11.865||MF|
|8.||Yann Ehrlacher||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 14.547||IND|
|9.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet RML Cruze||+ 20.783||IND|
|10.||Rob Huff||Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée||+ 21.212||IND|
|11.||John Filippi||Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën C-Elysée||+ 28.110||IND|
|12.||Kevin Gleason||RC Motorsport LADA Vesta WTCC||+ 31.760||IND|
|13.||Ryo Michigami||Honda Racing Team JAS Civic WTCC||+ 36.852||MF|
|14.||Aurélien Panis||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||+ 51.021||IND|
|DNF.||Dániel Nagy||Zengõ Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC||Mechanical||IND|
|DNF.||Néstor Girolami||Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo S60 TC1||Collision||MF|
* Post-Race Penalties:
Image via FIA WTCC Media