The two WTCC races at the Sonoma Raceway produced a pair of winners for whom the victories meant far more than the chance to spray the champagne and savour their moment in the winner’s circle.
In Race 1, Tom Chilton, driving one of the RML Chevrolet Cruze cars, qualified on pole position for the first time in his WTCC career and then converted that pole position into his maiden WTCC victory, beating a determined Tiago Monteiro who put in his best performance in the season so far.
Then, in Race 2, Gabriele Tarquini made a return to the winner’s circle, nearly five months after his first victory at the wheel of the Honda Civic. His success earned Honda the Manufacturers’ title with three race meetings remaining.
Three other drivers shone during the California weekend: Alex MacDowall and Mehdi Bennani shared victories in the Yokohama Trophy and also claimed brilliant overall results: fourth in Race 1 for the Briton and second in Race 2 for the Moroccan. Norbert Michelisz claimed another podium result, the fifth for him so far this year and managed to keep a fighting Yvan Muller at bay for much of the race.
Muller moved another step forward towards his fourth WTCC Drivers’ Championship and only Tarquini’s victory denied him the mathematical certainty of the title. However the current margin of 143 points over the Italian means that is a long way from being threatened. Michel Nykyær also remains in contention, though only theoretically, as he lies 163 points behind Muller with 165 still to be awarded.
The championship will resume in two weeks for rounds 19 and 20 at Suzuka, Japan on September 22.