Lopez takes controversial second Ricard win
Citroen’s Jose Maria Lopez scored his fifth win of the 2015 World Touring Car Championship, but faces an investigation from the stewards after an incident with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro which eliminated the ex-F1 racer.
The race was dramatic from the start, with Mehdi Bennani’s pole-sitting car launching well before the lights went out and immediately picking up a drive-through penalty, elevating Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz to first position after the Hungarian made a great getaway from third on the grid ahead of Monteiro.
Lopez had also had a great start from eighth on the grid in his Citroen C-Elysee WTCC, and was up to fourth by the end of the first lap ahead of team-mates Ma Qing Hua and Sebastien Loeb, while Muller was still tenth by the end of the first lap.
On lap four, Loeb was eliminated from the race when the race one winner hit the tyre stack at Turn 3 and suffered race-ending front-end damage to his car.
Muller was now on a charge and had worked his way ahead of ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton, Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente and Lada’s Jaap van Lagen, and inherited fifth when Loeb had his accident.
The biggest drama was yet to come as Lopez continued to battle with Monteiro, who had been putting on a rear-guard action right from the start against the reigning champion.
Heading into Turn 1 on lap seven, López tried to run around the outside of the Honda at the corner, making contact with the rear-left wheel of Monteiro’s Civic, spinning the Honda out, pitting at the end of the lap.
In the fracas, Ma Qing Hua snuck ahead of Lopez for second, with Lopez now held up behind his Citroen teammate for a further four laps before making his move down the inside at Turn 1.
Lopez then closed Michelisz’s two-second lead down in less than two laps and passed the Hungarian for the lead to go on to take his 15th career victory, but the result remains provisional with the Argentinian under investigation for the incident with Monteiro.
Michelisz finished second ahead, and first in the independents’ class, crossing the line ahead of the Citroens of Ma and Muller third and fourth, with Gabriele Tarquini driving from 14th to fifth for Honda.
Hugo Valente was the best classified Chevrolet driver in sixth overall, with Jaap van Lagen dropping outside of the points to finish 11th ahead of team-mate Nicky Catsburg, with Rob Huff unable to make the start due to suspension damage from race one.
Lopez’s win, should it be confirmed, will see the Argentinian extend his points lead over Yvan Muller to 39 heading to the next round of the WTCC in two weeks’ time at Vila Real in Portugal.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||24m50.700|
|3||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||24m52.856||2.156|
|11||Jaap van Lagen||Lada||25m17.071||26.371|
Loeb heads home Citroen 1-2-3-4 at Paul Ricard
Two Top 10 and one pole for Mehdi Bennani and the Sébastien Loeb Racing