Citroen took another podium lockout at the Slovakiaring, as Sebastien Loeb, Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller charged through to claim the top three spots.
There was almost disaster at the start as Ma Qing Hua stalled his Citroen from fourth on the grid, baulking Lada’s Nick Catsburg, while Nestor Girolami came across Ma’s stricken car unsighted and narrowly avoided the back of his car, taking to the grass in avoidance.
Into the first corner, Gabriele Tarquini took the lead from second on the grid in his Honda Civic, but Loeb, Lopez and Muller had all made brilliant starts from eighth, ninth and 10th on the grid and were second, third and fourth after manoeuvering past polesitter Jaap van Lagen’s Lada.
Tarquini fought hard to defend against the three Citroens, but was merely delaying the inevitable, with Loeb taking the lead on lap two and Lopez and Muller moving ahead of the Italian both at the same time a lap later.
The fourth factory Citroen of Ma meanwhile had his recovery from his poor start thwarted by a drive-through penalty for a false start, and the Chinese driver would later go on to retire.
The only key incident of the race was contact between the two Hondas of Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro as they fought for 11th. Monteiro dived down the inside of the Hungarian and the two made contact, but lost no positions.
The two Ladas of Rob Huff and Catsburg retired in the pits with three laps to go, which meant Jaap van Lagen was the only driver to finish for the Russian marque in sixth, finishing behind the Campos Chevrolet of Hugo Valente, who won the independents’ classification for the second consecutive race.
Independent rival Tom Chilton retired with a puncture at Turn 13 with one lap to go, while Loeb relaxed a little on the final lap, allowing his almost five second lead to drop to three over his battling teammates Lopez and Muller.
With Lopez finishing second, the Argentinian increases the gap to Muller to 30 points heading to next weekend’s race at Paul Ricard, while Sebastien Loeb is now 68 points behind.
Results to follow
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes