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Slovakia WTCC: Sebastien Loeb wins rain-affected race

World Touring Car Championship rookie Sebastien Loeb claimed his second victory of the season, and his maiden feature race success, in a rain-curtailed race at the Slovakia-Ring.

From the outside of the front row, the World Rally Championship legend made a strong start to lead into the first corner, thereby stealing a valuable visibility advantage over his competitors.

Poleman leader Jose Maria Lopez briefly dropped to third behind the Zengo Honda of Norbert Michelisz, before recovering the position courtesy of late-braking into Turn 1.

The two factory Citroens thereafter circulated in close formation at the front of the field until the appearance of the safety car on lap seven.

Several cars had begun to squirm alarmingly on the straights, due to acquaplaning, as track conditions worsened.

The pack circulated for three laps under full-course yellows before a decision was taken to declare a result after nine laps.

Speaking about the merit of stopping the race after three-quarter distance had been completed, Loeb said: "I think if the race had continued you would have had 75 per cent of the cars in the barrier.

"I am really pleased with the result because 'Pechito' [Lopez] had been untouchable at the start of the weekend.

"I knew I had to concentrate on my start, and obviously once I was in front I had the best visibility."

Watch video highlights on the AUTOSPORT WTCC page

Reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller in the third Citroen Racing entry severely comprised his race by creeping before the lights.

The number one C-Elysee ran fourth, in pursuit of Michelisz, in the early laps, before being called in to serve a drive-through penalty.

The race officials' decision provided a clear path for Michelisz to secure his maiden podium of the season.

Muller had recovered to 10th place when the race was neutralised, having called on his famed car control to rescue a big moment in which his rear wheels skirted a gravel trap.

A trio of customer Chevrolet Cruzes completed the top six.

Tom Coronel worked his way past ROAL team-mate Tom Chilton on lap five. The pair would hold that order until the appearance of the safety car, ahead of Hungaroring reverse grid victor Gianni Morbidelli.

Mikhail Kozlowskiy, who suffered turbo problems on his Lada in qualifying, failed to take the start.

The similarly afflicted Mehdi Bennani, who commenced the race from last in his Proteam Honda, finished in 15th place.

The foul weather had been welcomed by the Lada team prior to the start, and 2012 WTCC champion Rob Huff utilised the level playing field to progress three places to ninth.

Among those to be caught out by the treacherous conditions and indulge in half-spins and trips through the gravel were Campos TC2 rookie John Filippi and Campos Chevrolet driver Dusan Borkovic.

Follow both Slovakia WTCC races as they happen on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live on Sunday afternoon

Results - 9 laps:                                      
Pos  Driver                Team/Car           Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb        Citroen                        
 2.  Jose Maria Lopez      Citroen            +1.057s     
 3.  Norbert Michelisz     Zengo Honda        +2.194s     
 4.  Tom Coronel           ROAL Chevrolet     +2.946s     
 5.  Tom Chilton           ROAL Chevrolet     +3.813s     
 6.  Gianni Morbidelli     Munnich Chevrolet  +4.758s     
 7.  Tiago Monteiro        Honda              +6.233s     
 8.  Gabriele Tarquini     Honda              +6.936s     
 9.  Robert Huff           Lada               +8.329s     
10.  Yvan Muller           Citroen            +9.181s     
11.  Hugo Valente          Campos Chevrolet   +10.211s    
12.  Dusan Borkovic        Campos Chevrolet   +10.814s    
13.  Rene Munnich          Munnich Chevrolet  +11.711s    
14.  James Thompson        Lada               +13.365s    
15.  Mehdi Bennani         Proteam Honda      +14.136s    
16.  Petr Fulin            Campos SEAT        +15.276s    
17.  Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW       +16.993s    
18.  Pasquale Di Sabatino  Engstler BMW       +53.718s    
     John Filippi          Campos SEAT          7 laps 
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