Yvan Muller claimed a thrilling victory in the opening race of Macau's 2012 World Touring Car Championship finale, as points leader Rob Huff sensationally retired
Muller entered the meeting third in the title race, but Huff's disaster means all three factory Chevrolet drivers remain in world title contention ahead of race two.
In a tense fight over the closing laps, the third factory Chevrolet of Alain Menu harried Muller for the lead. Following their controversial Shanghai coming together, for the second race in succession the pair made contact.
Entering the top of Moorish on lap eight, a feisty Menu dived to Muller's inside, sending him sideways. The reigning world champion recovered the powerslide and subsequently edged out 0.9 seconds of breathing space at the chequered flag.
Muller had led the opening three laps at a relatively conservative pace, backing up the first six cars, before polesitter Huff outbraked the Frenchman on the inside of Lisboa to take the lead.
The Briton was forced to swerve defensively across the road on the exit as Muller counter-attacked, but in the next sequence of bends Huff extended a couple of car lengths advantage.
Moments later, Huff clattered the barriers on the twisty city section. The #2 Cruze was immediately crabbing with suspension damage, forcing Huff to pit for attention.
He continues to lead the drivers' standings on 395 points. Muller is now 17 points behind, with Menu third on 376.
Honda Racing JAS took its maiden WTCC podium thanks to a charging drive by Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese did well to hang on to Menu's bumper, and was never seriously threatened by 2013 Honda team-mate Gabriele Tarquini's SEAT in fourth.
A typical Lisboa pile-up had resulted in a temporary WTCC car park on the first lap, in which only the top six drivers escaped delay.
All three Yokohama Drivers' Trophy championship contenders were involved in the Lisboa chaos. Points leader Norbert Michelisz sustained a broken front bumper and suspension damage in the crash, while title rival Pepe Oriola had to stagger back to the pits to retire with damage.
Suzuka double independents' class victor Stefano D'Aste came to a halt sideways across the track. The Italian eventually rejoined the action in an outlandishly mangled Wiechers-Sport BMW, before receiving a black and orange flag from race officials.
Having started three WTCC races in Macau from the Yokohama class pole, Hong Kong racer Darryl O'Young finally picked up his first Independent victory at the Guia circuit in fifth place.
Results - 9 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 23m08.977s 2. Alain Menu Chevrolet + 0.915s 3. Tiago Monteiro Honda + 1.297s 4. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT + 1.967s 5. Darryl O'Young Bamboo Chevrolet + 11.519s 6. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 55.136s 7. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 1m04.037s 8. Fredy Barth SUNRED SEAT + 1m09.730s 9. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet + 1m16.524s 10. Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT + 1m22.194s 11. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT + 1m22.372s 12. James Nash Arena Ford + 1m23.053s 13. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 1m25.822s 14. Fernando Monje Tuenti SEAT + 1m29.347s 15. Andre Couto Tuenti SEAT + 2m12.605s 16. Henry Ho Five Auto BMW + 2m19.429s 17. Jo Rosa Merzsei Engstler BMW + 3m23.533s Retirements: Filipe de Souza China Dragon Chevrolet 7 laps Celio Alves Dias China Dragon Chevrolet 7 laps Kei Cozzolino ROAL BMW 7 laps Ka Lok Mak RPM BMW 6 laps Kin Veng Ng China Dragon Chevrolet 5 laps Rob Huff Chevrolet 4 laps Charles Ng Engstler BMW 4 laps Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 3 laps Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW 2 laps Eurico de Jesus Five Auto Honda 1 laps Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT 0 laps Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 0 laps
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