Muller and Huff on equal points after USAWTCC drivers treated American fans to a breathtaking show on the occasion of the championship’s first visit to Sonoma and the United States.
Both races were eventful. Yvan Muller and Rob Huff shared the victory honours and their results also made the fight for the world championship as hot as ever. The two Chevrolet drivers are now on equal points with only six races to go. It is easy to predict that the battle will go to the wire at Macau once again. If Huff was the happiest man in the paddock for having matched Muller’s point tally on top of the Drivers’ Championship, Norbert Michelisz too had reasons to rejoice. The young Hungarian was a pain in the neck for the Chevrolet cars in both races and eventually claimed two podium results and stretched his leadership in the Yokohama Trophy. Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu tried their best and never gave up. However, their hopes of achieving great results vanished when they collided at the start of the first race. The Italian had the consolation of a podium in Race 2, while the Swiss saw his hopes of staying in contention for the title fight seriously jeopardized. Among those who contributed to entertain the Californian fans a few deserve to be mentioned: Tom Coronel completed two great recoveries from 20th on the grids to eight and fifth; Alex MacDowall chased the top drivers in both races; Tiago Monteiro finished twice in the points on his last appearance with Sunred before switching to Honda; Tom Boardman scored points in both races; Franz Engstler lulled into the dream of winning Race 2 before Muller brusquely woke him up… The championship takes a one month break, while cars and parts are being shipped to Japan. Rounds 19 and 20 will take place at Suzuka on October 21.
RACE 1 – 1-2 FOR CHEVROLET ON HOME SOIL
Yvan Muller for Chevrolet won the first WTCC race in the US. Rob Huff secured a 1- 2 for the American manufacturer on the home soil and Norbert Michelisz finished third, winning the Yokohama Trophy. The first laps were action-packed, with the contact between Alain Menu and Gabriele Tarquini at the start and the fight for the lead between the Chevrolet trio. After Menu vanished from the top positions, Michelisz was putting the pressure on the leading duo of Muller and Huff, while Tarquini was defending his fourth position from Alex MacDowall. Behind them a quartet of BMW drivers delivered another close fight, and Tom Coronel managed to finish in eighth after starting 20th. In terms of Drivers’ Championship, Muller made another small step towards the title.
Start – Menu and Tarquini make contact at Turn 2, Tarquini drops from second to fifth
Lap 1 – pile up at Turn 2 involves D’Aste, Dudukalo, O’Young, Chilton, Monje and Cerqui
Lap 2 – Monteiro overtakes Engstler for seventh; Nash overtakes Bennani for ninth
Lap 3 – Menu, Muller and Huff fight for the lead, fender to fender; Ng spins and rejoins
Lap 4 – Muller and Huff dive inside Menu at Turn 6; Menu drops to third and then slows down
Lap 5 – Menu pits for repairs; Bennani overtakes Nash for ninth
Lap 6 – Tarquini is closely chased by MacDowall; Nash drops down with technical problems
Lap 7 – Coronel hits Bennani who cuts a chicane
Lap 8 – Coronel dives inside Bennani at Turn 6, the collide and Bennani spins
Lap 11 – Oriola’s car stall on the straight, the Spaniard loses his tenth position
Lap 12 – Monteiro chases MacDowall for fifth
Lap 13 – Muller wins from Huff; Boardman scores the final point for 10th
A. Dudukalo: race incident; A. Cerqui: race incident; F. Monje: race incident
RACE 2 – HUFF CLAIMS A CRUCIAL VICTORY
Rob Huff gave Chevrolet the second victory of the day. This has been also a crucial success for the title fight as enabled the British driver to match Yvan Muller’s score in the point table. Muller remained scoreless following a drive through penalty that was imposed by the Stewards after he had pushed Franz Engstler into a spin while stealing the lead from him. Despite Muller’s penalty, Huff had not an easy life in the second half of the race, as Norbert Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini were chasing him closely. Eventually the classified second and third and the young Hungarian encored his Race 1 victory in the Yokohama Trophy.
Start – D’Aste takes the lead from Bennani, Engstler and Michelisz
Lap 1 – Muller overtakes Monteiro for fifth at Turn 2; Huff overtakes Monteiro for sixth at Turn 6
Lap 1 – D’Aste spins off from the lead; Bennani is the new leader
Lap 1 – Menu and Huff overtake Michelisz moving up to third and fourth
Lap 1 – Tarquini overtakes MacDowall for seventh
Lap 2 – Coronel and Menu overtake Cerqui, who drops to 11th; Monje crashes at Turn 5
Lap 3 – Tarquini overtakes Monteiro for sixth
Lap 4 – Bennani spins off from the lead; Engstler is the new leader
Lap 5 – Muller hits Engstler at Turn 6; Engstler spins and Muller takes the lead
Lap 6 – the safety car takes the track while the marshals tow Bennani’s car to a safe position
Lap 8 – the race resumes
Lap 8 - Coronel overtakes Boardman for eighth; Menu overtakes Monteiro for fifth
Lap 9 – Muller is given a drive through for the incident with Engstler; Huff leads
Lap 10 – Michelisz chases Huff for the lead
Lap 11 – Oriola and Ng make contact while fighting for 11th position
Lap 15 – Mg is given a black flag for not respecting a black-and-orange flag
M. Bennani: race incident; F. Monje: race incident
THE GREEN FLAG COMES FROM THE SKY
The green flag that was used to start the warm up lap of WTCC Race 1 was delivered by a sky jumper team. Three members of the GoPro Bomb Squad jumped from a helicopter flying at about 1200 metres and landed right on the start-finish line, delivering the green flag to the race director.
Yvan Muller – Race 1 winner: “My car was fantastic and I have to thank the team for doing a great job. We knew that the first turn here could be an issue, so I was very conservative behind Alain (Menu) and Gabriele (Tarquini). They clashed and I had the opportunity to pass Gabriele. Then Alain had a technical problem and I was able to pass him too. In the final part of the race I had to keep watch on Rob (Huff) and avoid offering a gap to pass me. In the second race I made a mistake and hit Engstler. The Stewards decided to give me a penalty for this. It is not up to me to judge whether this was fair or unfair. Shame on me because I gave them the possibility to penalize me.”
Rob Huff – Race 2 winner: “I am very happy. It has been a great weekend for me. I was struggling a little bit with the set up of my car after the warm up. We changed something and I was very happy with the car’s race pace. It was the same old story, when I have Yvan or Alain ahead of me it’s very difficult to overtake. I was studying Yvan to see how I could make a try without taking a risk. Then he made a mistake and I found myself in the lead. From then onwards I had to control Michelisz’s moves, just like Yvan had done with me in Race 1. Now we are on equal points, Yvan and I. It’s like a fresh new start to the championship. I have been twice third and once second. I will try everything I can to win this year!”