Weather: overcast with a dry track Crowd: more than 40,000 on Sunday BMW AND ALFA ROMEO SHARE WINS IN FIA WTCC PREMIERE Dirk MÃ¼ller for BMW and James Thompson for Alfa Romeo claimed one win apiece in the opening FIA World Touring Car ...
Weather: overcast with a dry track
Crowd: more than 40,000 on Sunday
BMW AND ALFA ROMEO SHARE WINS IN FIA WTCC PREMIERE
Dirk Müller for BMW and James Thompson for Alfa Romeo claimed one win apiece in the opening FIA World Touring Car Championship event. Rounds 1 and 2 of the season took place today in Monza, in front of a big crowd.
Both races were breathtaking. The German driver had the edge over the Alfa cars of Tarquini and Farfus in the first race. The second race was even more dramatic, resulting in a number of position changes and clashes. Thompson came home first ahead of the BMW cars of Dirk and García, whilst Tarquini went off.
After the end of the race, the Stewards decided to impose a drop of ten grid positions for the first race of the next event to both, Thompson (cutting a chicane) and Dirk (colliding with Tarquini). The penalties, however, are suspended depending on the sporting behaviour of the drivers in the next event for Thompson and in the next two events for Dirk.
SEAT had mixed fortunes. Rydell scored in Race 1, also claiming the pole for Race 2, but his hopes of glory were banished by a race incident. However his team-mate Gené managed to score more points for the Spanish Manufacturer.
Newcomers Chevrolet and Ford had a troubled weekend, but the former managed to score points in the Manufacturers' Championship.
The FIA WTCC will now head to Magny-Cours, for Rounds 3 and 4 on 1st of May.
WARM-UP TROUBLES ON TRICKY TARMAC
The warm-up took place in the early morning, when the tarmac was tricky, with some wet spots. García lost his BMW 320i at the frst chicane, spun on the wet grass and crashed against the barriers. A few minutes later De Micheli missed the braking point and hit Rosenblad. This forced the latter to withdraw from the race, his BMW not repairable.
RACE 1 DIRK MÜLLER MAKES HISTORY
Dirk Müller made history today in Monza, capitalising on his pole position and claiming the first race win of the new FIA World Touring Car Championship. With a dry track and confidence in his car, Dirk drove a solid race.
While the BMW Team Deutschland competitor edged away from the rest of the pack, there was a riveting battle for third place. Andy Priaulx made several attempts to overtake Farfus, creating some nail biting moments. But strong defensive driving from the Brazilian ensured that the 2004 FIA ETCC champion couldn't find a gap that would have given him a spot on the podium. Team Alfa Romeo took both second and third place in front of an enthusiastic Italian crowd of more than 40,000, with Tarquini finishing 2.465 seconds behind Dirk. García, who started second on the grid, had a bad start to the day. He damaged his car during the warm up session this morning but the BMW Team Italy-Spain ensured the car was repaired in time for the green lights. Lap three saw more difficulties for the Spaniard as Farfus nudged him of the track during an overtaking manoeuvre. García skilfully kept the car under control, rejoined the race and kept on the pace to finish in a positive fifth position. Throughout the whole race the three SEAT Sport drivers were in a close fight with Alfa Romeo's men Giovanardi and Thompson, and eventually Rydell finished eighth, just ahead of Gené, to claim the final point. The Ford Hotfiel Sport team have had a challenging weekend with engine problems and difficulty finding the pace. Klenke retired on lap 5 again with engine problems, while his team-mate Jäger was involved in a collision with Menu's Chevrolet.
Chevrolet are also a team that have work to do to make it to the podium but all three cars finished the race, with Huff as their fastest driver. Marc Hennerici, the Wiechers- Sport man, claimed maximum points for the Michelin Independent Drivers' Trophy crossing the line a superb 13th overall. Zanardi who was in great demand by the Italian fans at an autographing session earlier in the day took tenth overall, making him the winner of the Italian Superturismo, his first win after returning to competition after a horrific accident in Champ Cars.
RACE 2 THOMPSON SCORES FOR ALFA ROMEO
Alfa Romeo driver James Thompson took command of a spectacular race in front of a huge crowd and crossed the finish line ahead of his FIA World Touring Car Championship rivals. Thompson, who started the second race in second place, overtook Rydell (who was on pole on the top-eight reverse grid) at the start and managed to hold on to the lead for the duration. However, it was by no means an easy ride to success with winner of race one, Dirk Müller edging closer and closer as the laps were counted down. Thompson finished 0.530 seconds ahead of Dirk's BMW 320i.
At the start Giovanardi stalled the engine from the second row. Rydell started on pole but was swiftly overtaken by the eventual race winner, García and Dirk, before crashing during lap two after Farfus hit him from behind. This was clearly a disappointment for the SEAT Sport Team but their Spanish driver, Gené, gained valuable points by finishing in 6th place. The fight for the win turned into a war halfway through the race. After Rydell went off, Colciago crashed at Lesmo on lap 5. One lap later another collision eliminated De Lorenzi and Huff.
García was chasing Thompson, but he made a mistake and lost three positions. At the beginning of the 6th lap, the leading pack arrived at the first chicane and all six drivers Thompson, Dirk, Farfus, Tarquini, García and Priaulx tried to brake as late as possible. Thompson cut across the grass, Farfus ran wide, while Dirk and Tarquini clashed; the Italian brunted the worst of it and crashed. In the final lap García managed to keep third place despite a final assault from Jörg Müller, who had recovered from 29th on the grid.
It was another excellent performance from the independent driver, Mark Hennerici. He took 10th position in his BMW, an improvement of 3 places from his finish in the first race. Chevrolet too made progress in the second of the races with Nicola Larini claiming a very encouraging 15th place.
Zanardi was again the quickest of the Italian Superturismo drivers and is clearly also a presence in the FIA WTCC as he finished seventh overall.