The WTCC race day at the Salzburgring had two faces. The first race delivered another 1-2-3 for Chevrolet, while the second one saw Stefano D’Aste claiming his first win after a dramatic last lap.
Tue 03.07.12, 3:03PM
Rob Huff, Yvan Muller and Alain Menu dominated Race 1, but at the same time they treated the Austrian fans to a good show, engaging each other in close fights nearly at every corner.
The second race was set to end in another 1-2-3 for Chevrolet, as Muller, Huff and Menu were able to recover and take command despite starting ninth, tenth and eighth respectively. However, tyre problems plagued all the three Cruze cars – and also the León cars of Monteiro, Tarquini and Dudukalo – and this resulted in a lastcorner sprint that propelled D’Aste towards an unexpected victory from Huff and Tom Coronel.
In terms of the title fight, Huff emerged as the overall winner of the weekend. The Englishman overtook Menu for second place and also reduced his gap from Yvan Muller to only eight points, which promises exciting battles for the second half of the season.
In the Yokohama Trophy, before D’Aste’s sensational overall triumph (that followed Norbert Michelisz’s in the previous event), Alex MacDowall won the category in the first race, claiming his maiden victory since he joined the championship. The championship will resume at Portimão, Portugal on June 3 for rounds 13 and 14.
RACE 1 - HUFF HEADS CHEVROLET 1-2-3
Robert Huff took a lights-to-flag victory for Chevrolet in the first of the afternoon’s two races at the Salzburgring. After qualifying on pole, Huff was first into the chicane at Turn 1 and, despite determined challenges from Yvan Muller that twice saw the French driver alongside Huff on the fast uphill section of the circuit, the Englishman held on to take a deserved victory. Alain Menu completed the Chevrolet 1-2-3 after closely shadowing his colleagues throughout the race.
Behind the Chevrolets, the SEAT León of Gabriele Tarquini finished fourth, with Tiago Monteiro fifth in the SUNRED León car. Tarquini’s Lukoil Racing team-mate wasn’t so fortunate; Aleksei Dudukalo had a premature end to his race after a collision with the BMW of Mehdi Bennani going into the chicane on lap 12. Another incident on only the race’s fifth lap brought out the safety car, when Darryl O’Young went off into the gravel at Turn 5. In all, four laps were completed behind the safety car until O’Young’s SEAT León could be moved into a safe position. Rounding off a near-perfect race for Chevrolet, the bamboo-engineering Cruze of Alex MacDowall finished sixth overall and the best of the competitors in the Yokohama Trophy, with the SEAT of Pepe Oriola finishing second in the category and Norbert Michelisz third in his BMW.
Start - Huff first into T1, ahead of Muller and Menu
Lap 1 - Cerqui and Chilton make contact, Cerqui pits for repairs and rejoins
Lap 2 - Drive-through penalty for Di Sabatino for a false start
Lap 3 - Muller alongside Huff, but Huff hold him off
Lap 5 - Contact between O’Young and D’Aste at T1
Lap 6 - Safety car deployed
Lap 10 – the race resumes
Lap 11 - Muller tries again to pass Huff, in vain
Lap 12 - Contact between Dudukalo and Bennani at T1
Lap 13 - Wéber into the gravel at T9, but continues
Lap 14 - Huff holds on to win from Muller and Menu
D. O’Young: race incident; S. D’Aste: race incident; A. Dudukalo: race incident
RACE 2 - D’ASTE CLAIMS LAST TURN WIN
The final few corners of a thrilling last lap gave a delighted Stefano D’Aste a victory he surely couldn’t have expected. In fourth place with only four corners remaining, D’Aste’s BMW benefitted from punctures to the front left tyre of both the Chevrolet cars of Yvan Muller and Robert Huff. Muller, the race leader, ran wide at Turn 10, with a slightly surprised D’Aste then diving past both Tom Coronel and Huff in T12 to score his first ever WTCC victory and also the first for the Wiechers-Sport team. Muller eventually nursed his Chevrolet Cruze home in 8th place, with his teammate Alain Menu failing to finish after sliding off the track on Lap 8. Behind D’Aste, Huff and Coronel, Pepe Oriola finished fourth, ahead of Norbert Michelisz and Mehdi Bennani.
There was drama even before the cars lined up on the grid, with the Lukoil Racing Team mechanics forced to work quickly in the short period between the races to repair Aleksei Dudukalo’s damaged SEAT León. In the end, the repairs - to the car’s right-hand driveshaft - were carried out within the time allowed and so the Russian driver could take his place on pole position. Starting from 8th, 9th and 10th on the grid, the three factory Chevrolet Cruze cars quickly carved their way through the field so that, by the end of only the fourth lap, Muller led. Huff then moved into second place on the following lap, with Menu taking third place from Coronel on Lap 7. It then looked as though the race was set to witness another Chevrolet 1-2-3 until the last-lap drama.
Start - Coronel i first into T1, ahead of D’Aste and Dudukalo
Lap 1 - Muller, Huff and Menu all pass Bennani
Lap 2 - Muller passesTarquini for 6th; Huff and Menu also pass Tarquini.
Lap 2 - Muller passes Monteiro for 5th
Lap 3 - Muller passes Oriola for 4th and then passed Dudukalo for 3rd
Lap 4 - Muller passes D’Aste for 2nd; to Huff passes D’Aste and Dudukalo for 3rd
Lap 4 - Muller passes Coronel to take the lead
Lap 5 - Huff passes Coronel for 2nd
Lap 6 - Huff attacks Muller, but Muller holds on to the lead
Lap 7 - Menu passes Coronel for 3rd; Monteiro goes off at T10
Lap 8 - Menu and MacDowall goes off at T9; Tarquini through the gravel at T13
Lap 9 - D’Aste attacks Coronel into T1, but Coronel holds on
Lap 11 - Michelisz passes Bennani for 6th
Lap 12 – Muller goes into gravel at T10; D’Aste passes Coronel and Huff to take win
D. O’Young: DNS; T. Boardman: DNS; T. Monteiro: race incident; A. Menu: race
incident; A. MacDowall: race incident
THE WORD TO THE WINNERS
Robert Huff – Race 1 winner:
“That has to be one of the hardest races of my life because I spent more time looking in the mirror than looking forward! It was so difficult to hold off Yvan going up the back straight, since at one point he was more than three-quarters of the way past me, but I managed to hold on, thankfully. I had probably the best start of the three of us in Race 2 and could afford to push Yvan once I got into second place behind him, but we had a radio message saying Alain (Menu) and Alex (MacDowall) both had punctures and so I took the decision to slow down a little. Yvan slowed down as well to preserve his position and it was really unlucky that he got his puncture when he did. I got a puncture in the very next corner and the car wouldn’t turn in, Stefano (D’Aste) gambled on the line and took his first win and so congratulations for him.”
Stefano D’Aste – Race 2 winner:
“It was a crazy race, I have to say! Tom (Coronel) and I did a good job in the first part of the race and then the Chevys arrived and I couldn’t do anything to prevent them overtaking. After a couple of laps, it was obvious that they weren’t pushing as much and the gap started to come down, then in the last lap I saw Yvan (Muller) going out and I went on a different line to pass Tom and Rob (Huff). I knew that it was something of a gamble whichever way I went, but fortunately, it was the correct decision. I actually didn’t know that was the last lap; I asked Dominik Greiner (Wiechers-Sport team manager) how many laps were left and he told me I had won!”