Portugal WTCR: Muller wins after two-hour delay

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Portugal WTCR: Muller wins after two-hour delay
By: Jack Cozens
Jun 23, 2018, 6:13 PM

Yvan Muller reclaimed the World Touring Car Cup points lead with victory in Saturday's opening race at Vila Real, which featured a stoppage of more than two hours after a huge first-lap crash.

Muller made a dreadful start on the initial getaway, but was the first car in the queue when the race restarted behind a safety car and controlled proceedings thereafter.

The race had been halted for car recovery and track repairs after a crash on the opening lap, which was triggered by polesitter Rob Huff and teammate Mehdi Bennani making contact through the fast Turn 5 right-hander.

Norbert Michelisz had returned to the grid having survived a hit in that crash, but his BRC Racing Hyundai i30 N was not allowed to take the restart and was instead returned to the pits, giving Muller clear track when racing resumed at the end of lap four.

The four-time world champion was matched in the opening laps by Esteban Guerrieri - whose Munnich Motorsport outfit had worked throughout the stoppage to repair his Honda Civic in time for the restart - with Gabriele Tarquini in tow in third in the sole surviving BRC Hyundai.

But Muller gradually eked out an advantage and was never troubled by Guerrieri, with both opting to serve their joker laps at the end of lap eight.

Muller clinched his second win of the season by a little more than two seconds, reclaiming the points lead in the process as a result of nephew Yann Ehrlacher being eliminated in the first lap crash.

Tarquini had pressed Guerrieri in the closing stages, but suffered a left-front puncture on the final lap and dropped to fourth, ceding the final podium position to Pepe Oriola approaching the final corner.

Oriola had earlier completed a vital overtake on Jean-Karl Vernay - who had taken the initial start from the pitlane after crashing at the end of qualifying - by squeezing his Campos Racing Cupra past Vernay on the run off the second corner after Vernay had served his joker.

Vernay still finished a comfortable fifth behind Tarquini, while Aurelien Comte claimed sixth in his Peugeot 308TCR from Benjamin Lessennes in the closing stages.

The Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMSs finished eighth and 10th, sandwiching the similar WRT car of Gordon Shedden.

Fabrizio Giovanardi finished 11th - recording the Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo outfit's best finish so far in 2018 - but he was placed under investigation during the race for crossing the blue joker lap line in his Giulietta.

Race results

ClaDriverCarGap
1 FRA Yvan Muller Hyundai  
2 ARG Esteban Guerrieri Honda 2.060
3 ESP Pepe Oriola Seat 10.596
4 ITA Gabriele Tarquini Hyundai 12.925
5 FRA Jean-Karl Vernay Audi 13.926
6 FRA Aurélien Comte Peugeot 14.186
7 BEL Benjamin Lessennes Honda 16.696
8 FRA Nathanaël Berthon Audi 19.937
9 GBR Gordon Shedden Audi 20.169
10 BEL Frederic Vervisch Audi 20.678
11 ITA Fabrizio Giovanardi Alfa Romeo 21.728
12 SVK Mato Homola Peugeot 22.668
13 POR Edgar Florindo Seat 50.040
14 HUN Norbert Nagy Seat 50.451
15 HUN Zsolt David Szabo Seat 1'05.510
16 FRA Aurelien Panis Audi 3 Laps
17 BEL Denis Dupont Audi 5 Laps
18 José Rodrigues Honda 6 Laps
19 HOL Tom Coronel Honda 8 Laps
20 HUN Norbert Michelisz Hyundai 12 Laps
21 GBR Rob Huff Volkswagen 13 Laps
22 MAR Mehdi Bennani Volkswagen 13 Laps
23 FRA Yann Ehrlacher Honda 13 Laps
24 SWE Thed Björk Hyundai 13 Laps
25 FRA John Filippi Seat 13 Laps
26 GBR James Thompson Honda 13 Laps
27 ITA Gianni Morbidelli Alfa Romeo 13 Laps
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About this article

Series WTCR
Event Vila Real
Sub-event Saturday race
Location Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Drivers Yvan Muller
Teams Yvan Muller Racing
Author Jack Cozens
Article type Race report