The fight for the European Touring Car Championship will go down to the wire after a thrilling opening race at Monza which was won by Alfa Romeo's Roberto Colciago, after he collided with Dirk Muller and then went on to pass his BMW team-mate Jorg Muller for a famous home victory.
With joint championship leader Gabriele Tarquini starting at the back in his Alfa, this was always going to be a race to remember. The predicted first corner carnage occurred when James Thompson, whose Alfa was engulfed in a cloud of wheelspin at the start, appeared to tag Duncan Huisman's car into Antonio Garcia's BMW. The Spaniard spun and triggered a massive chain reaction shunt that accounted for all three SEATs.
Also involved, sadly, was Alex Zanardi whose BMW clipped the spinning Fabio Francia (Alfa) and sustained broken front suspension.
At the front, things appeared to be going to plan for BMW. Jorg Muller led Dirk Muller, with the Alfas of Colciago and Thompson giving chase. But Colciago negated a 2sec gap over the next few laps and closed up to the Schnitzer BMW duo. He attacked D Muller on the exit of the second chicane, but Dirk appeared to have him covered. The on-board camera showed that Colciago was steering towards his opponent, however, and the upshot of their collision was that Dirk whacked the barrier hard on both sides of the track, putting him out.
Now prone up front, J Muller fell prey to Colciago next time past when he ran wide on the exit of Lesmo 1. Thompson made an opportunistic move at Ascari to make it an Alfa 1-2, while Jorg's day went from bad to worse when he picked up a puncture on the penultimate lap, which dropped him out of the points.
Tarquini, meanwhile, stormed his way through the field. He finished fifth, behind the BMWs of Andy Priaulx and Tom Coronel, but attacked the driving tactics of BMW's Duncan Huisman, who he claimed "gave me big contact at Ascari, which was very stupid with the title at stake".
Colciago's driving tactics was also under review by the stewards after the race, which he won by 0.905s from Thompson.
With the final race of the season to go, Tarquini now leads the series by four points from J Muller, with Priaulx - now perhaps BMW's best bet for the title given Muller's problems - just a point further back.
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