You could say that Chevrolet victories at the Salzburgring were expected, considering how quick the Cruze cars were on the uphill part of the Austrian racetrack.
Actually, those predictions came true, although the names of the drivers who won the two races were not the top-rated ones.
Michel Nykjær and James Nash obviously benefited from the grid penalties imposed after Saturday’s much-debated qualifying session. Especially so, because among the drivers punished by the Stewards were RML team-mates Yvan Muller and Tom Chilton who had shown a far superior pace.
However, both today’s winners deserved their successes. Nykjær completed a spotless Race 1, leading from lights to flag and keeping Nash at bay on the way to his second victory of the season.
Nash reproduced the Dane’s performance in Race 2, resisting the pressure from Norbert Michelisz and creating a gap that was large enough to keep Muller at a safe distance on the last lap. This was the first WTCC win for both the young Englishman and the bamboo-engineering team.
It was also the first time in WTCC history that competitors of the Yokohama Trophy won both races in the same weekend.
In the overall championship Muller has extended his lead up to 80 points. The Frenchman put in two dogged performances, claiming two podium results and taking maximum benefit from the problems that plagued Gabriele Tarquini.
The championship will resume at the Moscow Raceway on June 8th and 9th for rounds 11 and 12, marking the series’ first visit to Russia.
Race 1 - Nykjær keeps Nash at bay
Michel Nykjaer drove a stunning lights-to-flag victory in Race 1, despite a strong challenge from the similar Chevrolet Cruze of James Nash. Yvan Muller, starting from thirteenth on the grid, steadily carved his way through the field to complete an all-Chevrolet podium. For much of the race it looked as though the top three would be comprised entirely of Yokohama Trophy entrants until Muller passed Mehdi Bennani’s BMW on the penultimate lap.
Following the penalties imposed by the Stewards after yesterday’s Qualifying, the starting grid looked very different. Nykjaer was on pole with Nash alongside him and the pair battled throughout the twelve-lap race. Muller produced the drive of the race – unsurprisingly, considering his pace throughout the weekend – while James Thompson finishing ninth meant that LADA out-scored Honda for the first time in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Race 2 - First victory for Nash
Following his second place in Race 1 James Nash, driving a Chevrolet Cruze, went one better in Race 2 and took his first ever WTCC race win. His victory was also the first for the bamboo-engineering team. Once again, Yvan Muller picked off the drivers ahead of him; starting from tenth on the grid, Muller finished in second place to record his second podium result of the afternoon. Norbert Michelisz finished third in the Zengö Motorsport Honda Civic.
Nash and Michelisz started the race alongside each other on the front row of the grid and for much of the race ran unchallenged at the head of the field. Behind them, Muller was doing exactly what he did in Race 1 and duly passed Michelisz on lap 11 to finish in second behind Nash. Tiago Monteiro’s fourth place gave the Castrol Honda team its best result of the weekend while Michel Nykjær followed up his win in the first race with fifth place in Race 2.
Darryl O’Young and Stefano D’Aste failed to start because of damage incurred during the first race. The Stewards gave Charles Ng a drive-through penalty for false start.