Citroen driver Jose Maria Lopez took a lights-to-flag victory in the WTCC's first-ever night race in Losail, Qatar, leading by almost eight seconds to secure a record-equalling 10th win of the season.
The Argentinian was unchallenged into the first corner and while teammate Sebastien Loeb briefly had the jump on Morocco’s Mehdi Bennani, the French driver then dropped behind both his own team’s driver and the Campos Chevrolet of Hugo Valente into Turn 2.
Despite Citroen's pace advantage, Loeb found himself stuck behind Valente’s Chevrolet for the remainder of the race.
Gabriele Tarquini spun off on the dust into the first corner and dropped to dead last, but was able to work his way past the Campos Chevrolet of Nasser Al-Attiyah for 17th, which became 16th when Craft-Bamboo Chevrolet driver Gregoire Demoustier pitted with one lap to go.
The other two Citroens of Ma Qing Hua and Yvan Muller ran in fifth and sixth position throughout the race, with the Chinese driver hounded by the four-time champion throughout, albeit Ma held on.
Norbert Michelisz picked up seventh overall, and third in the independents’ class, but with Mehdi Bennani scoring victory in the independents’ trophy, the gap is down to two points ahead of the second race of the day.
A penalty may follow for Stefano D’Aste in the Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet, who is being investigated for a jump start. The Italian finished tenth overall, provisionally picking up the final point.
In the overall drivers’ standings, Loeb is now 12 points clear of Muller for second position, albeit Muller will start in third for race two.
The second race gets underway imminently, with Campos Racing’s John Filippi starting on pole position ahead of the ROAL Chevrolet of Tom Coronel.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen||24'33.158|
|5||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen||18.815|
|18||Gregoire Demoustier||Chevrolet||1 Lap|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes