Andros Trophy Rd 1 – Victory for Muller

The rules and regulations might have changed, the factories might have gone, but Yvan Muller still rules the Andros Trophy, winning the first round of the season at Val Thorens in fine fashion, with three qualifying heat wins and two victories in the sprint races.

Andros Trophy Rd 1 – Victory for Muller

Muller's Astra, entered by Team Snobeck, was followed by Marcel Tarres' Citroen Xsara, with Jean-Philippe Dayraut third in his BMW Z3.

The new points system of the ice-racing series means that, more than ever, every session counts. The timed practice sessions at the beginning of the weekend take on new importance, not only setting the grids for the heats, but also becoming the determining factor for separating two drivers should they tie at the end of the day.

Yvan Muller showed that he had lost nothing over the summer season, and was soon setting fast, consistent times, taking victory in both Saturday's three-lap heats, as well as winning his 6-lap final. "I'm getting the feeling back," Muller said modestly. Tarres, in the Citroen Xsara, was close behind, often faster over one lap but unable to rival Muller's consistency. Dayraut, the only man to beat Muller last season, took to the ice in a brand-new BMY Z3, and after some initial problems, rose to third and was challenging the leaders.

Having set the best time in the timed qualifying session for Sunday, Muller only needed one heat victory to go into the final races with a commanding lead. Therefore, after two 47-second laps in the first heat on Sunday morning, Muller was able to miss the second session, saving his tyres for the race. The weather, mild throughout, meant that the ice was poor and reduced to tarmac and slush in the hairpins.

Tarres, second to Muller in the first heat, profited from his absence to take an easy win in the second heat, setting the best lap of the weekend at 46.976 seconds. He was followed closely by Jean-Philippe Dayraut, gaining confidence in his new BMW Z3, and setting two 47.1 second laps for second place, and placing him provisional third. "I made a mistake, and hit the wall - I could have easily won," Dayraut admitted afterwards. "The car is going better and better". Peterhansel, admitting to a lack of practice in his Nissan Micra, was fourth.

Sunday's races saw victory in the first Promotion 6-lap race go to Laurent Fouquet in the Renault Clio he is sharing with a succession of bikers. "It' s nice because they are great guys, very professional - but it does give a few problems. We had to change the gearbox this morning because Regis Laconi broke it," he said. Balas, after a spectacular win from the back of the grid in Saturday's race, made a mistake at the start of the Sunday race and dropped down the field, recovering to fourth. The second race was won by Neyrial in his Opel Tigra, ahead of Balas' team-mate Merafina in the BMW Z3.

Marcel Tarres took a closely fought win in his 6-lap race from Stephane Peterhansel's Nissan Micra. "I'm pleased with the way the weekend has gone," Tarres said afterwards. "We've been close to Muller throughout, and I've set faster lap times than him. It looks good for the season."

In Muller's final 6-lap race, Jean-Philippe Dayraut got ahead at the start, and for three laps the five-time champion fought hard, nose to tail on the straights, side-by-side on the corners, trying to get by. He finally squeezed through when Dayraut took a wide path through the hairpin, pushing Dayraut up into the snow wall in the process. Muller then pulled away, taking the win ahead of Dayraut and Julien Pressac in the Renault Megane.

Overall victory - taking points from the heats and the races - saw Muller take yet another Andros win, ahead of Tarres and Dayraut. "I'm extremely happy, especially considering how little running we did before this weekend," Muller said. "It looks like being a good fight this season!" Victory in the Promotion category for cars with two-wheel steering went to Jean-Michel Neyrial, followed by Laurent Fouquet, with Laurent Battut just beating Christophe Balas for third place.

Andros Trophy Val Thorens: Day One

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