Race 1: Giovanardi pips Muller

Recently crowned FIA European Touring Car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi underlined his title with another victory in the first race of the season finale at Estoril in Portugal today (Sunday). Giovanardi (Alfa Romeo) won a tense battle with BMW's Jorg Muller and the Volvo of Rickard Rydell

Race 1: Giovanardi pips Muller

The chaos started early after a very quick change from red lights to green. That seemed to catch out poleman Rydell, who attempted to move across on fellow front row man Giovanardi. They touched, with Giovanardi squeezing through, and Rydell then clipped wing mirrors with Tom Coronel (BMW). Just behind them, Jorg Muller and Nicola Larini (Alfa Romeo) touched as well, launching Larini on to two wheels and sustaining damage that put him out a few corners later.

Also getting involved with each other at the first corner were the BMWs of Duncan Huisman, Fredrik Ekblom, Jordi Gene and Fabrizio de Simone, plus the Alfa of Tom Ferrier which sustained heavy right side damage and was also forced out.

Giovanardi held sway at the front, with Coronel allowing Jorg Muller into second at the end of the opening lap. Muller then reeled in Giovanardi and was right on his tail at the start of lap six. Rydell wasn't far behind either, having got past Coronel on lap two.

Muller's first attack was at Turn 3 on lap seven, when he shoved Giovanardi around the corner and received the black and white driver warning flag for his move. A lap later, Rydell almost slipped past Muller at the same place, but Jorg held on after a brush of wheels.

After a couple of laps of stalemate, Muller tried all he could on the final tour but to no avail and Giovanardi won by 0.160s, with Rydell dropping back slightly in the final stages to finish third. Coronel was fourth, ahead of Tommy Rustad's Nissan Primera which had started last after a engine failure before qualifying. James Hanson took the final point on offer for Volvo, despite sporting heavy damage from the first corner melee.

After the race, however, Jorg Muller was slapped with a 30-sec penalty for his driving tactics at the start, while Rydell was given a 20-sec penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. That elevated Coronel to second, Rydell stayed third and Muller dropped to fourth.

"Everyone knew that team-mates were going to help each other and that there might have been some political stuff going on," said Muller. "I knew I needed points so I had to keep safe. With the Larini incident, that was not on purpose, because that could have broken my car too."

Rydell added: "I only overtook one car in the entire race and that was on the first lap. I haven't a clue why I was punished."


Fabrizio Giovanardi, Nordauto Alfa Romeo 156 Gta, 12 laps
Tom Coronel, Carly-Isert BMW 320I, +8.444s
Rickard Rydell, Volvo S60, +21.600s
Jorg Muller, Schnitzer BMW 320I, +30.160s
Tommy Rustad, RJN Nissan Primera, +31.997s
James Hanson, Volvo S60, +35.030s

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Qualifying: Rydell's first pole for Volvo

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