Slovakia Ring WTCC: Yvan Muller dominates race one from pole
Yvan Muller led the first 2015 World Touring Car Championship race at the Slovakia Ring from pole position to the chequered flag, beating Citroen team-mate and title rival Jose Maria Lopez by a comfortable 1.949s
In contrast to the orderliness up front the battle for the second half of the top 10 was more chaotic, enabling Argentine Super TC2000 champion Nestor Girolami to claim a points finish after a disappointing qualifying session on his WTCC debut in a privateer Honda.
As Muller smoothly converted pole position into a lead away from the start, and Lopez rebuffed a challenge from team-mate Sebastien Loeb to hold on to second, Ma Qing Hua stuttered away from seventh place on the grid in the fourth of the factory C-Elysees, dropping to 16th place.
That paved the way for an eventful race in the midfield while Muller consolidated his lead at the front, leaving Lopez to contend with Loeb throughout while Lada's Rob Huff followed at a growing distance.
Chevrolet privateer Hugo Valente, highest qualifier among the independent runners, challenged Huff for fourth at the start but was swiftly shown the door.
During the second half of the race Valente dropped off Huff's tail as he contended with Gabriele Tarquini in the fastest of the factory Honda Civics.
Tom Chilton was tapped into a half-spin on the opening lap as he battled with Nicky Catsburg's Lada, but came off best to bring his Chevrolet home seventh.
Following a disastrous qualifying session Tiago Monteiro started the second works Civic 17th on the grid but made his way through to eighth at the chequered flag, thanks in part to the sudden retirements of Mehdi Bennani's Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen with a tranmission problem, and Norbert Michelisz's Zengo Honda with a puncture while they disputed ninth place.
Tom Coronel placed ninth after an entertaining dice with the charging Ma, who retired to the pits for attention to the clutch problem that compromised his start.
Like all the Honda drivers, Girolami had been struggling for pace since the Civics are carrying 60kg of compensation weight this weekend, and he had said after qualifying 18th that he was simply targeting a race finish.
He made up four places on the opening lap, then passed Stefano D'Aste's Chevrolet the hard way - on the tighter corners of the infield - since the Civic lacked the speed to pass on the straight, and capitalised on the fall-out from the Michelisz-Bennani retirements to move in to the final points position.
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