Muller leads Chevrolet podium sweep in WTCC Hungaroring opener
|By Peter Mills||Sunday, May 6th 2012, 10:42 GMT|
Yvan Muller led home an RML Chevrolet procession at the Hungaroring to extend his lead at the top of the World Touring Car Championship drivers' standings.
The Frenchman's factory Chevrolet team-mates Rob Huff and Alain Menu both survived incidents at a crowded first corner to complete the podium.
Fourth qualifier Gabriele Tarquini was an instigator of the drama. The Italian made another excellent getaway in the Lukoil SEAT Leon to challenge for the lead on the run down to Turn 1.
Briton Huff also judged the rolling start procedure adeptly, and was sandwiched between pole winner Muller on his inside and Tarquini at the apex of Turn 1. Sharp contact was made between Huff's #2 Chevrolet and Tarquini when the 2009 world champion attempted to turn into the corner.
Tarquini's inside wheels were launched into the air, and damage forced the 50-year-old to retire his Leon at the completion of the opening lap.
Immediately behind, Menu made contact with local star Norbert Michelisz's Zengo BMW, pushing Darryl O'Young's Special Tuning SEAT wide onto the asphalt run-off.
Hong Kong racer O'Young rejoined the road into the path of the unfortunate Franz Engstler, damaging both cars.
Menu exited Turn 1 in fifth place, having received a damaged wheel rim in the incident. The Swiss touring car veteran swiftly worked past Tiago Monteiro's Tuenti SEAT and the lone Proteam BMW of Mehdi Bennani in the next sequence of corners to recover his qualifying position of third.
Menu staged a brief challenge for second into Turn 1 and Turn 2 on lap six, but Huff covered his inside line to secure the position.
Bennani claimed his highest ever WTCC finish of fourth with a composed drive, but was 11 seconds adrift of Muller at the chequered flag.
Arena's James Nash was the key beneficiary of the opening lap chaos to move up five places to seventh. However, Nash's Focus S2000 TC struggled to match the race pace of his pursuers, aiding Michelisz's recovery.
The Hungarian clawed his way back to sixth entering the last lap, only to be muscled out of the position by Tom Coronel (ROAL BMW), sensationally up from 21st on the grid, at the fast Turn 10 right-hander.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 23m23.462s 2. Robert Huff Chevrolet + 1.259s 3. Alain Menu Chevrolet + 1.759s 4. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW + 10.983s 5. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT + 15.206s 6. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 15.786s 7. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW + 16.480s 8. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT + 16.971s 9. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet + 18.106s 10. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW + 20.950s 11. James Nash Arena Ford + 24.446s 12. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet + 26.296s 13. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW + 26.493s 14. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT + 30.396s 15. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 31.116s 16. Charles Ng Engstler BMW + 31.897s 17. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW + 3 laps Retirements: James Thompson Lada Granta Sport 7 laps Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 4 laps Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 3 laps Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT 1 lap Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 0 laps