Argentina WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez wins on debut, Yvan Muller slips up

Jose Maria Lopez secured a home victory in his maiden World Touring Car weekend in Argentina, while Yvan Muller failed to score for the first time this year

Argentina WTCC: Jose Maria Lopez wins on debut, Yvan Muller slips up

After starting from reverse-grid pole Lopez took command from the beginning, pulling out a gap of almost two seconds over second-place man Tiago Monteiro on the opening lap alone.

As the race approached the midway stage though that lead had been trimmed. More ominously, Muller had also moved from 10th to third.

The Frenchman was already sixth after the opening lap, but his charge was made all the easier when Gabriele Tarquini and Michel Nykjaer touched, allowing Muller to simply slip by.

He began hounding Monteiro, who by this time was within 1.2 seconds of Lopez, but his race was undone by a rare mistake on lap five.

Muller looked down the inside down the back straight but got slightly loose, touched dirt and then outbraked himself and nudged into the back of Monteiro's Honda. The latter dropped to ninth as a result.

Muller was given a drive-through, and with his two closest rivals now handicapped, Wiechers BMW driver Lopez was afforded four seconds of breathing space he would preserve to the finish.

Tarquini was the main beneficiary of the contact up ahead, moving into second.

Pepe Oriola - second in the opening contest - meanwhile put the shine on a fantastic weekend by finishing third.

Michel Nykjaer beat Norbert Michelisz to fourth, with the latter having to defend heavily on the final lap to deny Monteiro a fighting top-five finish.

James Nash was a relatively solitary seventh, but as was the case in race one, there were wild fights throughout the pack.

James Thompson had held eighth heading into the final laps, but faded with gremlins and eventually retired one from the end.

His fall back through the field bunched a chasing pack that grew to include Hugo Valente, Tom Coronel, Darryl O'Young, Alex MacDowall and Stefano D'Aste.

O'Young looked to have seized the initiative with an excellent pass on Thompson, only to be tagged into a spin by Valente, whose eighth place may therefore be taken away.

Coronel, himself involved in an earlier clash with Marc Basseng, and D'Aste rounded out the top 10 on the road.

Tom Chilton lost ground after early contact and could only finish 12th, one spot ahead of RML team-mate Muller.

Results - 11 laps:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car            Time/Gap
 1.  Jose Maria Lopez    Wiechers BMW      20m28.525s
 2.  Gabriele Tarquini   Honda                +3.619s
 3.  Pepe Oriola         Tuenti Chevrolet     +3.989s
 4.  Michel Nykjaer      Nika Chevrolet       +4.945s
 5.  Norbert Michelisz   Zengo Honda          +7.135s
 6.  Tiago Monteiro      Honda                +7.517s
 7.  James Nash          Bamboo Chevrolet    +13.866s
 8.  Hugo Valente        Campos SEAT         +16.422s
 9.  Tom Coronel         ROAL BMW            +16.767s
10.  Stefano D'Aste      PB BMW              +18.320s
11.  Alex MacDowall      Bamboo Chevrolet    +19.073s
12.  Tom Chilton         RML Chevrolet       +19.634s
13.  Yvan Muller         RML Chevrolet       +20.232s
14.  Fernando Monje      Campos SEAT         +23.092s
15.  Franz Engstler      Engstler BMW        +23.515s
16.  Mikhail Kozlovskiy  Lada                +26.544s
17.  Rene Munnich        Munnich SEAT        +27.050s
18.  Darryl O'Young      ROAL BMW            +36.055s
19.  Charles Ng          Engstler BMW        +36.476s

Retirements:

     James Thompson      Lada                 10 laps
     Mehdi Bennani       Proteam BMW           8 laps
     Marc Basseng        Munnich SEAT          7 laps
     Rob Huff            Munnich SEAT          4 laps
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