Three in a row for Chevrolet: Nicola Larini visits Podium again
Chevrolet made it three WTCC podiums in a row in Valencia today. Nicola Larini finished third in race 1 and fourth in race 2, while Alain Menu finished eighth in race 1 to start from pole position in race 2. Rob Huff on the other hand was the innocent victim of another drivers' optimistic overtaking manoeuvre which turned sour at the start of race 1.
The race started well for Chevrolet with Menu moving into third at the start, followed by Larini in sixth and a charging Huff just outside the top ten. Unfortunately, at Turn 1 following the long start-finish-straight, Rob Huff's race would be over as he got hit by reigning World Champion, Andy Priaulx, who spun out of Turn 1 and collected Huff on the way to the gravel trap.
The Safety Car was deployed to clear up the mess, adding two laps to the total race distance in the process. Once the track went green again, Alain Menu lost sixth gear. "On the long straight, in fifth, I had to lift to avoid hitting the rev limiter," he said. "Hitting the rev limiter actually loses you more speed than just lifting, but it also meant that the guys behind could make up lost ground on the straight. The understeer we had in practice was mostly gone when turning into the corners, but mid-corner and at the exit it still understeered each time I went on the power. The other cars behind were much quicker through the second part of the corners, resulting me in getting bumped a few times. But I managed to hang on to eighth which means pole position for race 2."
Race 2 would unfortunately be a different story for Menu, as he passed in third in Turn 1 and then gradually lost ground after he ran wide in Turn 12 and damaged the splitter, not exactly helping a car already hampered by understeer.
Nicola Larini had a much better race 1, consolidating his starting position and then gradually moving up the leader board. "It was race without any problems," he said. "I had a good, clean fight with Tavano, as well as with Rangoni, who both drove great races and made no mistakes." In race 2, Larini had a bit of a moment when Tavano braked a bit earlier than anticipated on lap 2. "I couldn't but hit him, and while I did, the engine cut out because there was no air coming in anymore. I had to downshift two gears to get the engine going again, but by then Terting was all over me. I stayed on my line but he hit me from behind taking off my rear bumper. With him getting a drive-through penalty and Alain hitting problems I then moved up to fourth."
Thanks to a titanic job by his mechanics, Rob Huff managed to start race2 from the pitlane and finished in 15th, while Maurer Motorsport's Vincent Radermecker finished in third in the Independents Cup. Lady driver Maria De Villota finished race 1 in 21st but went off in race 2.
The 2006 World Touring Car Championship finale takes place in Macau on November 19th. A record 11 drivers can still mathematically become the 2006 World Touring Car Champion.