Despite two of their cars starting dead last and the third having a slow start off the grid, Citroën managed to go 1-2-4 in the first race at Paul Ricard
Yvan Muller took his first personal win for Citroën after dominating Race 1 at the Paul Ricard.
The reigning champion, who had inherited pole position after technical scrutineering yesterday, did not have the best of starts but took the lead in lap 3 after passing Michelisz and Tarquini and flew away to the chequered flag.
Sébastien Loeb completed Citroën’s 1-2 after storming throughout the field from the last row in the grid. Honda took its first podium of the season, thanks to a great race by Gabriele Tarquini, who came ahead of Pechito López and a very inspired Rob Huff, who took fifth for LADA after a great race.
In the TC2T class, Liqui Moly Team Engstler’s Franz Engstler and Pasquale Di Sabatino signed another 1-2.
Start – Tarquini takes a perfect start ahead of Michelisz, Mulller, Valente, Huff and Borković.
Lap 1 – Muller passes Michelisz for second, while there is a contact between Loeb (already 7th) and López; Loeb has another contact with Morbidelli as he takes 6th.
Lap 3 – Muller passes Tarquini at first corner and takes the lead.
Lap 4 – Loeb passes Huff and Valente and climbs to 6th
Lap 5 – Huff passes Valente for 7th
Lap 6 – Loeb (who has fastest lap in 1.44.389) takes third from Michelisz.
Lap 7 – López passes Huff at the chicane after a short duel
Lap 8 – Muller leads with 4.5 seconds on Tarquini and posts fastest lap (1.43.801).
Lap 11 – López passes Michelisz in turn 2 after a contact that puts both cars sideways.
Lap 12 – Loeb is attacking repeatedly Tarquini for second but the Italian resists.
Lap 14 – Loeb eventually manages to outpower Tarquini, while Michelisz, Huff and Valente fight fiercely for 5th with the Brit brilliantly taking the advantage.
Lap 16 – Valente also passes Michelisz for 6th
Yvan Muller: “My start wasn’t really very good but, luckily, a number of opponents did not start very well either. Then, I found my way and could pass Michelisz and Tarquini. I was faster than Norbert, it was a little bit more difficult to pass Gabriele. After that, I tried to stay focused and not panic. In the first part of the race, I kept a quiet pace, as I didn’t know what the weather would be like and wanted to save my tires. In the second part I increased the rhythm a bit, as everything was under control. We still haven’t a lot of experience with TC1 cars under the rain and I think everybody is still struggling a bit in these conditions as finding the right balance is not that easy. That’s probably why everybody opted for wet tires. I hesitated but decided to take no risks.”
Sébastien Loeb: “It was a difficult race, although I had no problems and no incidents to report. I pushed hard to recover as many positions as possible and it wasn’t that easy to drive in the wet with a front-wheel drive, as you can risk to lose the back of the car easily. It was not easy to overtake Gabriele, as clearly he defended his position, but everything went well and the car feels very good.”
Gabriele Tarquini: “At last, I could take the start of my 200th WTCC race, it was becoming an obsession, with so many celebrations and cakes for nothing at Macau and Marrakech! So, this is now behind me and it was nice to take Honda’s first podium of the season. The team did a fantastic job in building a new car after the accident in morocco and also in solving the gearbox problem we had yesterday. I had a good fight with Sébastien, I was surprised to see how fast he recovered. I tried to keep him behind as long as he could, but his car, at the moment, is definitely faster than mine, so there was no point in risking anything.”
Franz Engstler: “The team did a great job after my spin in qualifying and today we had no major problem in controlling the race. I focused on not doing mistakes, especially given that it is not easy to cope with wheelspinning on the wet with the BMW.”