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Yvan Muller passes Gabriele Tarquini to win World Touring Car Championship season-opener at Monza

Yvan Muller wins at MonzaYvan Muller survived a second lap trip across the grass to take victory in the opening race of the 2012 World Touring Car Championship at Monza.

The defending world champion grabbed the lead from polesitter Gabriele Tarquini with a clean move at the Parabolica close to the end of the opening lap.

Approaching the Rettifilio chicane to start lap two, Chevrolet driver Muller locked his front brakes under pressure from the recovering Tarquini and cut across the grass, but resumed the track having given up the lead.

"When I went off, I thought's 'That's it, it over," said a relieved Muller. "Fortunately, I found the track again, and backed off to allow Gabriele into the lead as I didn't want to risk a penalty."

Muller was handed a reprieve just two laps later, when Tarquini ran wide on oil at the exit of the second Lesmo. The SEAT driver confessed to being caught out by a red and yellow oil flag at the first Lesmo, but not at the final right-hander.

Tarquini later suffered engine and braking problems, which made life easier for Rob Huff to charge into second place. The 2011 championship runner-up closed to within 0.4s of his team-mate Muller at the chequered flag, but ran out of laps to make a passing attempt.

Huff was in the thick of the action on an eventful opening lap. The Briton clashed with his other Chevrolet team-mate Alain Menu in a scrap for third place at the first Lesmo, sending the Swiss driver into the gravel.

The incident allowed Scandinavian Touring Car champion Rickard Rydell - making a one off appearance in the WTCC for Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden - to jump past Huff into third, with the opportunistic Tom Coronel snatching fourth in his ROAL Motorsport BMW.

Rydell finished fourth behind Tarquini, with Coronel just a second behind the Swede.

Independents' honours went to the SUNRED SEAT of Pepe Oriola, who completed the top six. The 17-year-old Spaniard's engine cut out on his slowing down lap.

Oriola's team-mate Tiago Monteiro was a first corner retiree in an accident that also delayed the BMWs of Stefano D'Aste (Wiechers-Sport) and Franz Englster (Team Engstler).

Results - 12 laps:

Pos  Driver                Team/Car               Time/Gap
 1.  Yvan Muller           Chevrolet            26m01.705s
 2.  Rob Huff              Chevrolet              + 0.446s
 3.  Gabriele Tarquini     Lukoil SEAT            + 2.305s
 4.  Rickard Rydell        Chevrolet Sweden       + 2.745s
 5.  Tom Coronel           ROAL BMW               + 3.796s
 6.  Pepe Oriola           Tuenti SEAT            + 6.111s
 7.  Alain Menu            Chevrolet              + 6.326s
 8.  Alex MacDowall        bamboo Chevrolet       + 8.287s
 9.  Norbert Michelisz     Zengo BMW              + 8.431s
10.  Alberto Cerqui        ROAL BMW               + 9.257s
11.  Stefano D'Aste        Wiechers BMW           + 9.465s
12.  Franz Engstler        Engstler BMW          + 12.082s
13.  Tom Chilton           Arena Ford            + 12.668s
14.  Pasquale di Sabatino  bamboo Chevrolet      + 15.886s
15.  Charles Ng            Engstler BMW          + 48.135s
16.  James Nash            Arena Ford            + 56.503s


     Gabor Weber           Zengo BMW               11 laps
     Aleksei Dudukalo      Lukoil SEAT             10 laps
     Isaac Tutumlu         Proteam BMW              2 laps
     Andrea Barlesi        SUNRED SEAT               1 lap
     Mehdi Bennani         Proteam BMW               1 lap
     Tiago Monteiro        Tuenti SEAT              0 laps
     Darryl O'Young        Special Tuning SEAT      0 laps
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