WTCC drivers treated American fans to a breathtaking show on the occasion of the championship’s first visit to Sonoma and the United States.
Both races were eventful. Yvan Muller and Rob Huff shared the victory honours and their results also made the fight for the world championship as hot as ever. The two Chevrolet drivers are now on equal points with only six races to go.
It is easy to predict that the battle will go to the wire at Macau once again.
If Huff was the happiest man in the paddock for having matched Muller’s point tally on top of the Drivers’ Championship, Norbert Michelisz too had reasons to rejoice. The young Hungarian was a pain in the neck for the Chevrolet cars in both races and eventually claimed two podium results and stretched his leadership in the Yokohama Trophy.
Gabriele Tarquini and Alain Menu tried their best and never gave up. However, their hopes of achieving great results vanished when they collided at the start of the first race. The Italian had the consolation of a podium in Race 2, while the Swiss saw his hopes of staying in contention for the title fight seriously jeopardized.
Among those who contributed to entertain the Californian fans a few deserve to be mentioned: Tom Coronel completed two great recoveries from 20th on the grids to eight and fifth; Alex MacDowall chased the top drivers in both races; Tiago Monteiro finished twice in the points on his last appearance with Sunred before switching to Honda; Tom Boardman scored points in both races; Franz Engstler lulled into the dream of winning Race 2 before Muller brusquely woke him up…
The championship takes a one month break, while cars and parts are being shipped to Japan. Rounds 19 and 20 will take place at Suzuka on October 21.
RACE 1: 1-2 FOR CHEVROLET ON HOME SOIL
Yvan Muller for Chevrolet won the first WTCC race in the US. Rob Huff secured a 1- 2 for the American manufacturer on the home soil and Norbert Michelisz finished third, winning the Yokohama Trophy.
The first laps were action-packed, with the contact between Alain Menu and Gabriele Tarquini at the start and the fight for the lead between the Chevrolet trio.
After Menu vanished from the top positions, Michelisz was putting the pressure on the leading duo of Muller and Huff, while Tarquini was defending his fourth position from Alex MacDowall.
Behind them a quartet of BMW drivers delivered another close fight, and Tom Coronel managed to finish in eighth after starting 20th . In terms of Drivers’ Championship, Muller made another small step towards the title.
RACE 2: HUFF CLAIMS A CRUCIAL VICTORY
Rob Huff gave Chevrolet the second victory of the day. This has been also a crucial success for the title fight as enabled the British driver to match Yvan Muller’s score in the point table.
Muller remained scoreless following a drive through penalty that was imposed by the Stewards after he had pushed Franz Engstler into a spin while stealing the lead from him.
Despite Muller’s penalty, Huff had not an easy life in the second half of the race, as Norbert Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini were chasing him closely. Eventually the classified second and third and the young Hungarian encored his Race 1 victory in the Yokohama Trophy.
THE GREEN FLAG COMES FROM THE SKY
The green flag that was used to start the warm up lap of WTCC Race 1 was delivered by a sky jumper team.
Three members of the GoPro Bomb Squad jumped from a helicopter flying at about 1200 metres and landed right on the start-finish line, delivering the green flag to the race director.
THE WORD OF THE WINNERS
Yvan Muller – Race 1 winner:
“My car was fantastic and I have to thank the team for doing a great job. We knew that the first turn here could be an issue, so I was very conservative behind Alain (Menu) and Gabriele (Tarquini). They clashed and I had the opportunity to pass Gabriele. Then Alain had a technical problem and I was able to pass him too. In the final part of the race I had to keep watch on Rob (Huff) and avoid offering a gap to pass me. In the second race I made a mistake and hit Engstler. The Stewards decided to give me a penalty for this. It is not up to me to judge whether this was fair or unfair. Shame on me because I gave them the possibility to penalize me.”
Rob Huff – Race 2 winner:
“I am very happy. It has been a great weekend for me. I was struggling a little bit with the set up of my car after the warm up. We changed something and I was very happy with the car’s race pace. It was the same old story, when I have Yvan or Alain ahead of me it’s very difficult to overtake. I was studying Yvan to see how I could make a try without taking a risk. Then he made a mistake and I found myself in the lead. From then onwards I had to control Michelisz’s moves, just like Yvan had done with me in Race 1. Now we are on equal points, Yvan and I. It’s like a fresh new start to the championship. I have been twice third and once second. I will try everything I can to win this year!”
Weather: mostly sunny, with a dry track
Source: FIA WTCC