Yvan Muller and James Nash shared the honours at Porto’s Boavista circuit today, and gave two more victories to the Chevrolet brand in the WTCC. This was Muller’s fifth win of the season and Nash’s second.
Both race winners were able to avoid making even the slightest mistakes in a pair of tough races, on a difficult circuit and inside overheated cockpits. The streets of Boavista are merciless and upset a number of drivers over the weekend.
Michel Nykjær collected two third places that enabled him to move up further in the Drivers’ Championship and to maintain the lead in the Yokohama Trophy.
Tom Chilton and Rob Huff finished brilliant runners up in Race 1 and Race 2 respectively, with the latter heroically fighting against major brake problems for much of the race.
Pepe Oriola should also be happy with two fourth places on his debut at the wheel of a Chevrolet Cruze, as can James Thompson with a couple of sixth-placed finishes in his LADA. The Briton was particularly remarkable in Race 2 when he managed to keep Muller at bay.
James Nash had inherited pole position in Race 2 from Tom Coronel after a timing error during Qualifying was rectified, leaving an unhappy Coronel to start from 11th position on the grid. The BMW driver finished the race in 8th place, but the Porto Boavista street circuit is a tough place for overtaking and so Coronel can’t be blamed for thinking what might have been…
The Castrol Honda team left Porto licking its wounds after turbocharger failures on both its cars. Tiago Monteiro, the local hero, saw the second Free Practice session end in a cloud of white smoke; low turbo pressure then meant he could only manage to qualify in 17th place.
Race day then saw an identical problem afflicting his team-mate Gabriele Tarquini’s Civic car in Race 1, while he was fighting for a possible podium place. A rapid turbo change between races was in vain and last place in Race 2 was scant reward for the Italian.
The championship will resume at Termas de Río Hondo on August 3rd and 4th for rounds 15 and 16 that will mark the first WTCC visit to Argentina.
Race 1 - Muller keeps his cool in the heat
In the heat of Porto, Yvan Muller took yet another victory – his fifth of the season –to further extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship. After qualifying on pole position, Muller took a lights-to-flag win ahead of his RML teammate Tom Chilton, who finished second. The top four was an all-Chevrolet affair, with Michel Nykjaer finishing third and Pepe Oriola fourth. Nykjaer was also the highest-placed finisher in the Yokohama Trophy.
After Tiago Montiero pulled up with turbocharger failure in Free Practice yesterday, Gabriele Tarquini suffered the same fate in the other Castrol Team Honda car. As some comfort for the team, Monteiro - competing in front of a large home crowd - rewarded the fans by recovering from 17th to ninth.
Besides Tarquini, several other drivers failed to finish the race. Norbert Michelisz made contact with the wall on the second lap and pulled up, while a bizarre incident on lap 9 saw the BMW of Franz Engstler make contact with the rear of a marshal’s pickup truck that was on its way to recover Tarquini’s car. Fredy Barth then spun while trying to avoid Engstler’s car and the pickup, which brought out the safery car for two laps.
Race 2 - Nash claims win from Huff
James Nash, driving a bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze, converted pole position to his second victory of the season, finishing ahead of his fellow Briton Rob Huff in a Münnich Motorsport SEAT León. With fading brakes afflicting Huff’s car for much of the race, Michel Nykjær in the Nika Racing Chevrolet pushed Huff right to the chequered flag, but the reigning World Champion held off the challenge and so Nykjær had to settle for his second third-place finish of the day.
Behind the fight for the podium places, Pepe Oriola will surely be happy to have his debut event in a Chevrolet Cruze result in a pair of fourth places, with Marc Basseng fifth in another SEAT and James Thompson’s LADA Granta holding off the determined challenge of Yvan Muller to finish sixth.
Non-finishers included Fernando Monje, whose SEAT pulled up on Lap 5, and the BMW of Fredy Barth which hit the wall at Turn 13 on the penultimate lap. The mixed fortunes of the Castrol Honda team continued, with Tiago Monterio finishing 11th and Gabriele Tarquini in last place after the turbocharger in his Civic was changed after it failed in Race 1. Norbert Michelisz and Tom Boardman did not take the start as their teams could not repair damages obtained in Race 1.
Citroens first apperance at WTCC event
In a press conference ahead of today’s two WTCC races at Porto, the General Manager of WTCC Marcello Lotti welcomed Yves Matton, the Team Principal of Citroën Racing and Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, the team’s Technical Director.
Marcello Lotti: “Citroën is a very experienced brand in motorsport and Sébastien Loeb doesn’t need any introduction! Never in the history of the FIA championships has a champion in one category also won the title in another discipline. Loeb is the first to potentially do this and for me this is very exciting.”
Yves Matton: “The WTCC is a global discipline and it’s very important for a brand like Citroën to be involved in the Championship and in the rounds in some of our key markets. With the new regulations, the budget is very reasonable and the car we will use is a car the customer can identify - that is very important for us.”
Xavier Mestelan-Pinon: “We have never designed a car for a circuit before and so it’s a very exciting time for everyone in the team. It might be a car with the engine in the front, but we must discover everything about the car from the very beginning and it’s the same for everyone; the engineers, the drivers and the team manager.”
The trio then answered a variety of questions from journalists, during which Matton confirmed that the WTCC will be “…the priority’ for the team in 2014”” and that “…if he was interested, we would certainly like to bring (ex Formula One and current Citroën rally driver) Robert Kubica to at least one round next year.”