Yvan Muller and Alain Menu scored another two victories for Chevrolet, increasing the manufacturer’s tally in the current season to 11 out of 14.
Tue 03.07.12, 4:04PM
In the first race the reigning world champion pipped pole sitter Gabriele Tarquini at the start and resisted the Italian’s and Rob Huff’s comeback in the last laps. Menu played the part of comic books hero Michel Vaillant in a perfect way and dominated the second race in his Chevrolet in Vaillante disguise. These results meant that Chevrolet stretched further the leading margin in the Manufacturers’ Championship to 189 points.
In the Drivers’ Championship Muller made another small step forward, scoring ten and four points more than Huff and Menu. The Frenchman now has an 18-point lead on Huff, while Menu lies 35points adrift. The fight for the best of the rest between Tom Coronel and Gabriele Tarquini is also becoming hotter. They both finished once on the podium today, but Tarquini’s withdrawal in the second race gave the Dutchman a six-point edge.
In the Yokohama Trophy Norbert Michelisz won the first race, but the hero of the day was Pepe Oriola who managed to beat Coronel to second overall in Race 2. It was the best result ever for the Spanish teenager in WTCC. The championship takes now a 50-day break, while cars and parts are being shipped to Brazil. Rounds 15 and 16 will take place at Curitiba on July 22.
RACE 1 – MULLER TAKES A FLASHING START
Yvan Muller claimed his sixth victory of the season thanks to a flashing start that saw him overtaking pole sitter Gabriele Tarquini before the first turn. For the whole race the reigning World Champion maintained control, keeping Tarquini and Rob Huff at a safe distance. The three of them finished in the order, with Norbert Michelisz being classified fourth and victorious in the Yokohama Trophy.
Behind the top four, Alain Menu and his Chevrolet in Vaillante disguise recovered from the ninth position at the start to the fifth at the end. Menu was followed by Tom Coronel, while Tiago Monteiro won the fight with Alberto Cerqui to finish seventh. On the last-but-one lap a broken drive-shaft stopped James Thompson’s LADA Granta that had been fighting for the ninth position with Pepe Oriola, Stefano D’Aste and Alex MacDowall.
Start – Muller takes a better start at overtakes Tarquini on the outside line
Lap 1 – Dudukalo and Menu make contact, the former crashes with Wéber while trying to rejoin
Lap 2 – Monteiro overtakes Cerqui for sixth
Lap 3 – Menu and MacDowell overtake Cerqui who drops to ninth
Lap 4 – Menu overtakes Monteiro for sixth
Lap 5 – Bennani pits after a collision with another car
Lap 6 – Menu overtakes Coronel for fifth
Lap 7 – Ng spins at Turn 11
Lap 8 – Nash retires for the consequences of a collision with O’Young
Lap 10 – Thompson retires from twelfth
A. Dudukalo: race incident; G. Wéber: race incident; M. Bennani: race incident; J. Nash: race incident; C. Ng: rear axle; J. Thompson: drive-shaft
RACE 2 – MENU WINS IN MICHEL VAILLANT’S SHOES
Like in a happy ending movie, Alain Menu sealed his and Chevrolet’s Michel Vaillant experience by winning today’s second race in a dominant way. Just like Michel Vaillant had done many times in the comic books. Menu took the lead at the start and pulled away, creating a big gap and leaving his competitors to have close and tough fights behind him. Pepe Oriola and Tom Coronel fought for the whole race. Door-to-door, bumper-tobumper, they took turns in the second place until Oriola managed to prevail, claiming his first WTCC podium and also the first ever for a 17-year old in an FIA World Championship.
Another tough battle involved Yvan Muller, Rob Huff, Gabriele Tarquini and Alberto Cerqui over the fourth place. After keeping the two Chevrolet drivers at bay for most of the race, Tarquini was the victim of a three-car clash and retired, while Huff and Muller finished fourth and fifth, with Cerqui in a brilliant sixth. James Thompson’s LADA had finally a trouble-free race and was classified in an encouraging 11th place.
Start – Menu sprints to lead from Oriola and Coronel; Michelisz stalls the engine
Lap 1 – Coronel overtakes Oriola for second
Lap 1 – a multiple collision involves D’Aste, Di Sabatino, Dudukalo, Boardman, Bennani
Lap 2 – Tarquini overtakes Cerqui and Monteiro moving up to fifth
Lap 3 – Oriola retakes second from Coronel; Tarquini overtakes Cerqui for fourth
Lap 4 – Muller overtakes Cerqui for fifth
Lap 6 – Monteiro drops to 10th behind MacDowall and Michelisz
Lap 7 – Muller and Cerqui make contact; Huff overtakes Cerqui for sixth
Lap 8 – Huff and Tarquini make contact and they collect Muller; Tarquini retires, Cerqui benefits from the incident and climbs to fourth
Lap 9 – Huff overtakes Cerqui for fourth
Lap 10 – Muller overtakes Cerqui for fifth
T. Boardman: race incident; M. Bennani: race incident; J. Nash: set up problems.
BENNANI GIVEN A SUSPENDED GRID PENALTY
The Stewards investigated on two different incidents, one in each race. Alain Menu and Aleksei Dudukalo received reprimands for causing the collision that eliminated Gábor Wéber and Dudukalo himself in the first race. Mehdi Bennani was given a ten-position grid penalty for causing the multiple incident that involved Stefano D’Aste, Tom Boardman, Pasquale Di Sabatino and Dudukalo in the second race. This penalty will remain suspended for the next three events.
THE WORD TO THE WINNERS
Yvan Muller – Race 1 winner:
“Any victory is important, but the season is still very long. I was very focused on taking a good start. I had tried that manoeuvre in the warm up this morning and I knew it was possible. Fortunately I was able to pass Gabriele at the first turn and then I had to drive as best as I could and look after my front left tyre. We have done a great job by improving the race set up during this morning warm up. I have pushed in the first lap to create a gap, but for the rest of the race my pace was the same as Gabriele’s and Rob’s.”
Alain Menu – Race 2 winner:
“It was great to win in the shoes of Michel Vaillant. It was the icing in the cake for this weekend dedicated to our comic book hero. But obviously I am also happy for Chevrolet and for… Alain Menu! This victory keeps my hopes to fight for the world title alive. I took a very good start and then I pushed hard in the first laps because I wanted to create a gap, as I expected Rob and Yvan to recover in the second half of the race. We had changed the set up after the first race, as I was not happy with it. The car was much better.”
PHILIPPE GRATON: A DREAM HAS COME TRUE
Phiippe Graton, the son of Michel Vaillant’s creator Jean Graton, attended the race weekend in Portugal to watch Alain Menu acting as his father’s comics character. “It is a very strange feeling to be alongside Michel Vaillant in flesh and blood. But when you work on the script for a comic book, you are used to mix fiction and reality…” Graton said. And the Swiss driver played the part perfectly winning the second race at the wheel of his Chevrolet Cruze disguised as a Vaillante Gil. “There must be something magic in Michel Vaillant, because a story like this you can only imagine it could happen when you write the script for a comic book. What has happened here today was very special, like a dream coming true! I’m very grateful to the people who made this possible: Eric Nève and the Chevrolet team, Eurosport Events and especially Alain Menu, who agreed to personify Michel. And I have to say that he proved himself perfect for the part. It is a very beautiful story, that goes beyond the race victory. We know that Alain was a fan of Michel Vaillant and maybe the author and the character gave a contribution to form him and to address him to be a racing driver. Today Alain has given it back, to the author and to all the readers of Michel Vaillant.”