Alain Menu claimed his second World Touring Car Championship victory of the season with a dominant lights-to-flag victory at Pau
The Chevrolet Lacetti driver started his RML-developed machine from pole position, but despite SEAT's home hero Yvan Muller making a marginally better getaway, he was able to lead into the Virage de la Gare hairpin.
Thereafter, Menu edged away from the Frenchman, extending his lead to as much as three seconds before easing off in the closing laps.
"I had a good start, although Yvan had an even better one," said Menu. "I saw he was looking to go around the outside at the hairpin, but he thought better of it. Then it was a case of being careful not to make a mistake."
Muller had a lonely run to second ahead of team-mate Tiago Monteiro, the ex-Spyker Formula One racer picking up the best finish of his short touring car career.
Rob Huff took fourth for Chevrolet, although he beneffited from the misfortune of team-mate Nicola Larini, who retired on lap 12 with a right-front puncture after clipping the wall.
Huff had pressured the heavily-ballasted Larini throughout the first part of the race, coming close to making a move on several occasions.
Ex-GP2 racer Felix Porteiro held off fellow BMW 320si driver Andy Priaulx to take his best career finish in fifth. With Jorg Muller, who finished a frustrated 11th after a broken damper in qualifying left him well down the grid, and not scoring, Priaulx now takes over as the championship leader.
But the real winner in terms of the championship was Muller's Schnitzer BMW team-mate Augusto Farfus. Farfus, carrying a ten-place grid penalty, had started down in 13th with a hastily repaired car after rolling at Monument in the dying moments of qualifying.
However, he picked his way through the hold-ups on the first lap to run ninth at the end of the first lap. He moved into eighth when Larini retired before dispatching Jordi Gene's SEAT to take seventh, and a front-row grid slot for race two, at the Oscar hairpin on lap 16.
Tom Coronel narrowly missed out on his first points finish since Curitiba with ninth place after surviving a clash with the N.Technology Alfa Romeo 156 of former DTM racer Olivier Tielemans in the first corner.
Tielemans, who had started a career-best ninth on the grid, came off worst in the accident, hitting the barrier after spinning. James Thompson completed an average race for the team, finishing 10th after problems in qualifying.
Stefano d'Aste claimed his first independent class win of the season for the Wiechers-Sport BMW team. The Italian passed Anthony Beltoise in the middle stages of the race to earn the win.
Indie points leader Luca Rangoni failed to score after retiring with suspension problems, while Proteam Motorsport team-mate Sergio Hernandez picked up second in class after slipping past WTCC debutant Beltoise at the Lycee Hairpin.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Alain Menu Chevrolet 26:42.140 2. Yvan Muller SEAT + 2.260 3. Tiago Monteiro SEAT + 3.808 4. Robert Huff Chevrolet + 9.194 5. Felix Porteiro BMW + 11.375 6. Andy Priaulx BMW + 11.803 7. Augusto Farfus BMW + 12.683 8. Jordi Gene SEAT + 19.328 9. Tom Coronel SEAT + 22.417 10. James Thompson Alfa Romeo + 24.804 11. Jorg Muller BMW + 25.506 12. Michel Jourdain Jr. SEAT + 27.254 13. Stefano D'Aste BMW + 27.807 14. Sergio Hernandez BMW + 29.598 15. Anthony Beltoise SEAT + 30.162 16. Miguel Freitas Alfa Romeo + 43.703 17. Emmet O'Brien SEAT + 46.478 18. Pierre-Yves Corthals SEAT + 47.452 19. Gabriele Tarquini SEAT + 1 lap RETIREMENTS Nicola Larini Chevrolet 12 laps Alessandro Zanardi BMW 11 laps Maurizio Ceresoli SEAT 9 laps Luca Rangoni BMW 6 laps Olivier Tielemans Alfa Romeo 0 laps
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