Stefano D'Aste takes first World Touring Car win amid puncture mayhem at the Salzburgring
|By Peter Mills||Sunday, May 20th 2012, 14:06 GMT|
Wiechers-Sport BMW racer Stefano D'Aste scored his maiden outright World Touring Car victory at the Salzburgring.
The 38-year-old, who has competed in the series since it was revived in 2005, negotiated a dramatic race in which many of the leading front wheel-drive runners were sidelined with front-left punctures.
All five Chevrolets, the three-car factory RML team and the two bamboo-engineering Cruzes, suffered front-left failures induced by the long, high-speed, Turn 9.
Alain Menu's works Chevrolet was sent into a heavy impact with the Turn 9 Armco on lap eight, and the Swiss racer's abandoned car was subsequently hit by British Touring Car graduate Alex MacDowall's similar bamboo machine.
Following the crash, the surviving factory Chevrolets of Yvan Muller and Rob Huff reduced their pace by a second a lap to start the final tour in first and second positions.
Neither Tom Coronel's third place ROAL Motorsport BMW, nor D'Aste tucked up in his slipstream, appeared destined to challenge the Chevrolet drivers.
But victory slipped from Muller's grasp when his tyre failed at Turn 10. The lead was handed to race one winner Huff, but the Englishman's own left-front failed on the approach to the final chicane.
Coronel chose to negotiate the stricken Cruze on the inside of the final corner but was blocked by Huff onto the pit straight. D'Aste stole past both drivers on the outside to take a memorable win, as Huff limped home ahead of Coronel by 0.117 seconds.
Spanish teenager Pepe Oriola finished a distant fourth, ahead of BMW Independent runners Norbert Michelisz (Zengo Motorsport) and Mehdi Bennani (Proteam).
Oriola's Tuenti Racing team-mate Tiago Monteiro retired following a trip through the Turn 9 gravel, caused by a flat front-left. Punctures also delayed the Lukoil Racing SEATs of Gabriele Tarquini and polesitter Aleksei Dudukalo.
Huff's Salzburgring pole position, race win and second position moves him to within eight points of Muller's 206 point championship lead. Menu remains third on 175, while Coronel's podium lifts the Dutchman ahead of Tarquini into fourth on 116.
Results - 12 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 17m58.529s 2. Rob Huff Chevrolet + 0.377s 3. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 0.494s 4. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT + 4.103s 5. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW + 4.929s 6. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW + 5.432s 7. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW + 5.786s 8. Yvan Muller Chevrolet + 6.464s 9. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 6.474s 10. James Nash Arena Ford + 9.056s 11. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 12.980s 12. Gabor Weber Zengo BMW + 15.659s 13. Charles Ng Engstler BMW + 37.399s 14. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT + 1 lap 15. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet + 1 lap 16. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT + 1 lap Retirements: Alain Menu Chevrolet 7 laps Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet 7 laps Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 7 laps