Hungary WTCC: Bennani wins as factory teams mess up strategy
Mehdi Bennani won the opening race in Hungary from pole position in a wet race at the Hungaroring circuit for Sebastien Loeb Racing.
The race was largely dependent on tyre choice, with both Honda and Citroen making the wrong calls and ending up to the back of the field.
It has been raining throughout the morning, easing off just with two hours to the race, creating a difficult decision for the teams.
Polesitter Bennani opted for full-wets with Fredrik Ekblom alongside also running wets on his Volvo S60, with Yvan Muller choosing to run slicks on his Citroen C-Elysee WTCC in third.
The drivers were allowed two formation laps in order to acclimatise to the new conditions, and Lada’s Gabriele Tarquini decided he’d made the wrong call and dived into the pits to switch his slicks for wet tyres from 11th on the grid.
There was also disaster on the formation lap for home hero Norbert Michelisz, whose engine expired on the opening lap, leaving the privateer Zengo-run Honda of Ferenc Ficza the only local driver in the race for the partisan crowd to cheer for.
At the start, Muller got the jump ahead of Ekblom into the first corner, but it soon became clear the conditions weren’t ready yet for slicks, as Muller slid wide at Turn 2, handing the positions back to Ekblom and Lada’s Nicky Catsburg.
By the end of the first lap, those who started on slicks, including both the remaining factory Hondas of Rob Huff and Tiago Monteiro, and the two Citroens of Muller were plummeting down the order.
The key movers on the first lap were SLR’s Tom Chilton and Campos Racing’s John Filippi, who worked their way up to fifth and sixth at the end of the second lap.
Filippi’s race looked to be scuppered after his car was deemed out of position at the start, but the performance difference between the slicks and wets meant he was able to make his way back up to eighth by the end of the race.
Catsburg overtook a struggling Ekblom on lap five for second, but both were caught and passed by the SLR Citroen of Chilton as they struggled with their wet set-ups, with Chilton demoting Catsburg to third on the penultimate lap.
Ekblom finished fourth for Volvo, with Tarquini’s change of tyres proving to be an inspired move as the Lada driver recovered from the pits to finish fifth ahead of teammate Hugo Valente.
Ficza scored his first points with ninth to the delight of the crowd ahead of Rene Munnich’s Chevrolet, while Huff and Monteiro finished 11th and 12th outside the points.
The Hondas ahead of the two Citroens of Muller and Jose Maria Lopez, the factory squad failing to score for the first time since they entered the championship.
Opening race results:
|14||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen|
José MarÍa López extends Citroën’s pole-winning streak
Hungary WTCC: Lopez leads Citroen 1-2 in thrilling main race