Gabriele Tarquini took his second win of the season in the opening race at the Losail, leading by almost seven seconds ahead of the Citroen of Tom Chilton, with Rob Huff taking the fight to his countryman for third in an action-packed race.
Chilton started from pole position in his Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen and held the lead at the start ahead of Tarquini, while the Honda pair of Tiago Monteiro and Huff battled down the inside into Turn 1 for fourth, with Huff coming out on top behind the Volvo of Robert Dahlgren.
Drama followed for the Portuguese driver Monteiro, who had gone into the race with an outside hope at grabbing second in the drivers’ championship, when he made contact with Jose Maria Lopez’s Citroen at Turn 7.
The contact saw Lopez spun into the Lada of Hugo Valente, with both Monteiro and Valente out of the race with damage.
With Monteiro’s car heavily damaged and unable to move, the race was red flagged, resuming behind the safety car almost 15 minutes later.
At the restart, Tarquini charged down the inside of Chilton to sweep into the lead, while later on the same lap, the Honda of Norbert Michelisz came together with Dahlgren as they fought for fourth, which saw Dahlgren fall behind teammate Thed Bjork and allowed the Citroen of Yvan Muller past all three of them.
Tarquini continued to pull out in the lead lap-after-lap, while Chilton found himself defending against Huff, who now has a strong chance to secure third in the drivers’ championship after Monteiro’s retirement.
The fellow Briton was able to defend against the former champion however and hold on to finish in second position, with Huff taking the final spot on the podium.
Muller finished fourth ahead of Michelisz, with the Volvos of Bjork and Dahlgren in tow.
Nicky Catsburg recovered from an earlier incident with the Citroen of Mehdi Bennani to secure eighth for Lada, though his pass on James Thompson’s Munnich Chevrolet at Turn 16 on lap seven is under investigation.
Lopez made his way back up to ninth despite a damaged car, with Thompson taking the final points in tenth.
Opening race results:
|9||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroën||14||11.591|
|R||Hugo Valente||LADA||4||10 laps|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes