Macau: Race notes, Priaulx, BMW win titles

ANDY PRIAULX AND BMW WIN WORLD TOURING CAR TITLES Twenty races, ten countries, twelve race winners but one Champion Andy Priaulx. The FIA World Touring Car Champion was decided on the very last race of the season in front of fully packed ...

ANDY PRIAULX AND BMW WIN WORLD TOURING CAR TITLES

Twenty races, ten countries, twelve race winners but one Champion Andy Priaulx. The FIA World Touring Car Champion was decided on the very last race of the season in front of fully packed grandstand, and it was to be the 2004 European Touring Car Championship winner's day. Priaulx had a dream weekend after qualifying on pole, and finishing both races in 2nd position. He could have maybe tried to finish on high note, winning one or both races, but while his competitors in the title fight Dirk Muller and Fabrizio Giovanardi were eliminated along the way, the Briton remained cool and capitalised on his two trips to the podium.

It was the logical conclusion because Priaulx, who scored only one victory during the season compared to Dirk Muller's three and Giovanardi's four, made of consistency his trump card, finishing 16 races out of 20 in the points and ten times on the podium (Dirk did it 6 times and Giovanardi 8).

The other title hopefuls saw their dreams of glory fading away from the beginning of the event. Giovanardi crashed twice over Thursday and Friday; a very disrupted qualifying session placed him and Dirk well behind Priaulx on the grid. The Alfa man's title fight was over in Race 1 as a suspension failure caused him to crash, and in vain he tried to get what was left of his car back to the pits.

Muller's lasted a bit longer. Victim of a collision with Larini at the end of Race 1, when he was in the points, he then dropped to 10th. His final hopes were lost when his car smashed into the barriers on the third lap of Race 2 while trying to recover.

BMW did the double by also winning the Manufacturers' Championship. A glorious day for the German manufacturer who had already won the only previous World Touring Car Championship, held in 1987, with Roberto Ravaglia. Marc Hennerici, who has led the Independents Trophy from the very first race of the season, finally clinched the title surviving the crashes that eliminated his rivals Coronel and Cirò.

The celebrations for the new champions did not shadow the great performances put in from Augusto Farfus and Duncan Huisman, who scored their first victories in the championship. Not a surprise for the Dutchman, who had already won the Guia Race three times in the past, but definitely for the young Brazilian, who had never seen this difficult track before.

RACE 1 FARFUS WINS, GIOVANARDI CRASHES

Augusto Farfus won his first FIA WTCC race at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo 156. Second place went to Andy Priaulx while Rickard Rydell completed the podium. The results meant that Priaulx was leading the championship with 93 points - a margin of 7 ahead of Dirk Muller.

At the start Priaulx got away well but was overtaken by Andre Couto at the first corner. Jorg Muller went wide entering Lisboa bend. He hit the wall, bounced back, collected Robert Huff and they in turn collected Tom Coronel. The all of the cars were extensively damaged and blocked the track resulting in the race being suspended and then restarted under safety car conditions for one lap.

New regulations meant that one extra lap was added and the race began after a rolling start. On the straight Dirk Muller overtook Chevrolet's Alain Menu for fourth. Andre Couto lost control of his car at Lisboa and handed Priaulx the lead with Augusto Farfus close behind. Lap three saw Fabrizio Giovanardi stray wide at Lisboa but he did continue. On the next lap Priaulx was overtaken by Farfus and a tight battle began for the rest of the race, with Priaulx putting the Alfa man under great pressure; while Rickard Rydell was closely chasing them in third position. The Briton mounted many attacks at the Lisboa bend but without success. Meanwhile, title contender Dirk Muller, was placed fourth. Giovanardi, the third man within reach of the championship, lost all chances of victory when, at turn 16, he crashed due to a broken suspension. His car was able to move despite the fact it was without its front right left wheel but the Italian soon ground to a halt. The final lap saw more drama as Dirk Muller fell from 4th to 10th after an incident. In spite of suffering from an aching back, after being involved in the pile up at the start, Stefano D'Aste won the independent race with 11th position overall.

RACE 2 HUISMAN SCORES ANOTHER WIN IN MACAU

Andy Priaulx claimed the FIA WTCC. Dirk Muller, who was the only other driver in a position to become champion, crashed into the Lisboa bend on lap three of the second race and did not finish. Giovanardi did not start the race due to the damage obtained in Race 1.

In the race, Duncan Huisman came from third to first off the start and held onto pole for the entire race while Priaulx came from 7th to 2nd. Alain Menu claimed 3rd position and achieved Chevrolet's first podium. The Lacetti's durability was tested however as Menu scraped the wall at Lisboa for two consecutive laps in the opening of the race. The corner was not as forgiving for Stefano D'Aste however, because on lap 2 he crashed and did not continue. James Thompson also had problems during the second lap and retired to the pits shortly afterwards. Lap three saw Carl Rosenblad's crash, handing the independent lead to Adriano De Micheli but this was short lived as the JAS Motorsport man was involved in an accident with Peter Scharmach, Robert Huff and Marc Hennerici at Fishermen's bend. Following this incident, Giuseppe Cirò was the only independent driver to complete the race. The safety car was deployed for a period of 4 laps while the four cars and their debris were cleared. On the penultimate lap Nicola Larini went straight at Lisboa losing fourth position.

Menu was later excluded by the Stewards because on one litre of fuel was lest in his car's tank, compared to the three required by the regulations.

-fia-

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