Lopez gives Muller Motegi win and potentially seals 2016 WTCC title

Yvan Muller was gifted a bizarre first win of the 2016 World Touring Car Championship season, as team-mate Jose Maria Lopez provisionally secured a third championship crown at Motegi

Lopez gives Muller Motegi win and potentially seals 2016 WTCC title

Lopez had held a comfortable lead before slowing on the penultimate lap and allowing Muller through to take honours.

Second leaves Lopez 120 points clear of closest challengers Tiago Monteiro and Muller with 165 still officially available.

But the Thailand round is now expected to be cancelled for financial reasons, leaving just the China and Qatar events to go and only 110 points on the table.

Though confirmation of the loss of the Buriram date is not expected until the next FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting, Citroen was confident enough to celebrate Lopez as champion for a third straight year at the finish.

The Formula E-bound Argentinian said he decided to let Muller have the win as a thank you for his support during their time as team-mates.

"I didn't know what to do, whether he'd respect it," said Lopez.

"But for me it was to say thank you to Yvan. To give up a victory for me is never easy, but Yvan as a racing driver and a person deserves this."

Muller duly took his first victory since the final race of the 2015 season, having held a comfortable second before Lopez allowed him through.

Lopez held station behind his team-mate over the final lap and a half to seal a Citroen one-two, with Honda driver Monteiro claiming his second third-place finish of the day after squirrelling up the inside of the Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen C-Elysee of Mehdi Bennani to take third.

Bennani followed the Civic throughout the race but was never able to mount a challenge for position, instead settling for fourth.

Nestor Girolami enjoyed a strong run to fifth in his second race with the Polestar team, which included a bold lunge to claim fifth from the second SLR C-Elysee of Tom Chilton.

Thed Bjork finished seventh in the second Polestar Volvo S60, forcing his way back past the Hondas of race one winner Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff during the race after dropping behind the pair at the start, with Michelisz leading Huff across the line for eighth.

Gabriele Tarquini once again claimed the final point for 10th in his Lada Vesta.

RESULTS - 14 LAPS:

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Yvan Muller Citroen Racing Citroen 28m03.653s
2 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen Racing Citroen 1.045s
3 Tiago Monteiro Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 2.561s
4 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 3.280s
5 Nestor Girolami Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 5.204s
6 Tom Chilton Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 7.638s
7 Thed Bjork Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo 9.159s
8 Norbert Michelisz Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 12.094s
9 Rob Huff Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 15.769s
10 Gabriele Tarquini LADA Sport Lada 16.746s
11 Nicky Catsburg LADA Sport Lada 17.812s
12 James Thompson Munnich Motorsport Chevrolet 28.185s
13 Hugo Valente LADA Sport Lada 30.215s
14 Tom Coronel ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet 31.351s
15 Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen 31.950s
16 John Filippi Campos Racing Chevrolet 34.863s
17 Ryo Michigami Honda Racing Team JAS Honda 39.613s
18 Ferenc Ficza Zengo Motorsport Honda 40.074s
19 Daniel Nagy Zengo Motorsport Honda 3 Laps

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

Pos Driver Points
1 Jose Maria Lopez 319
2 Tiago Monteiro 199
3 Yvan Muller 199
4 Rob Huff 178
5 Norbert Michelisz 172
6 Mehdi Bennani 159
7 Nicky Catsburg 145
8 Tom Chilton 143
9 Gabriele Tarquini 106
10 Tom Coronel 102
11 Hugo Valente 70
12 Thed Bjork 55
13 Fredrik Ekblom 35
14 James Thompson 24
15 Nestor Girolami 12
16 Gregoire Demoustier 11
17 Esteban Guerrieri 9
18 John Filippi 9
19 Ferenc Ficza 2
20 Rene Munnich 2
21 Sabine Schmitz 1

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