Muller starts title defence with a win
|By Steven English||Sunday, March 8th 2009, 16:38 GMT|
Yvan Muller led the opening World Touring Car race of the year from start to finish at Curitiba this afternoon.
The reigning champion led away from pole position and maintained a comfortable margin over his pursuing SEAT teammates, even through a mid-race safety car period.
The line of five SEATs was penetrated by BMW's home hero Augusto Farfus at the start as he picked off Tiago Monteiro in the first turns.
Mayhem erupted behind as Chevrolet's Alain Menu led half the field over the grass run-off at Turn 2 when he too tried to pass Monteiro. Jorg Muller then made contact with fellow BMW driver Andy Priaulx and was pitched into Menu, taking all three cars off the road. Priaulx rejoined at the back of the pack, but Muller and Menu had to pit.
The race was broken up half way through when Stefano D'Aste spun into the wall and the safety car restart gave Monteiro the opportunity to reclaim his fifth place from Farfus. He was already alongside as they crossed the line and Nicola Larini's Chevrolet also followed through into Turn 1.
But with just two laps to go, Monteiro slipped back to eighth after running wide exiting the final corner as he tried to fend off Larini. As a result he will start the second race from pole position, sharing the front row with Sergio Hernandez, ahead of Farfus and Larini.
Priaulx fought back through the field in his wounded BMW but finished just one place short of claiming the reverse grid pole in ninth.
Felix Porteiro won the independent class in 10th place overall. The BMW driver had looked capable of breaking into the top eight, but he lost ground after contact with Rob Huff and finished one place ahead of his chief independent rival Tom Coronel.
Pos Driver Car Time/gap 1. Yvan Muller SEAT 26:45.799 2. Jordi Gene SEAT +2.098 3. Rickard Rydell SEAT +2.880 4. Gabriele Tarquini SEAT +3.501 5. Nicola Larini Chevrolet +7.183 6. Augusto Farfus BMW +7.766 7. Sergio Hernandez BMW +8.152 8. Tiago Monteiro SEAT +8.767 9. Andy Priaulx BMW +12.128 10. Felix Porteiro BMW +13.441 11. Tom Coronel SEAT +15.971 12. Alex Zanardi BMW +16.105 13. Tom Boardman SEAT +16.990 14. Frank Engstler BMW +20.829 15. Jaap van Lagen Lada +24.116 16. George Tanev BMW +24.868 17. Viktor Shapovalov Lada +26.339 18. Kirill Ladygin Lada +27.540 19. Jorg Muller BMW +5 laps Retirements: Marin Colak SEAT 13 laps Kristian Poulsen BMW 13 laps Rob Huff Chevrolet 5 laps Stefano D'Aste BMW 4 laps Alain Menu Chevrolet 2 laps Fastest lap, Y Muller 1:25.662