Yvan Muller passes Gabriele Tarquini to win World Touring Car Championship season-opener at Monza

Yvan Muller survived a second lap trip across the grass to take victory in the opening race of the 2012 World Touring Car Championship at Monza

Yvan Muller passes Gabriele Tarquini to win World Touring Car Championship season-opener at Monza

The defending world champion grabbed the lead from polesitter Gabriele Tarquini with a clean move at the Parabolica close to the end of the opening lap.

Approaching the Rettifilio chicane to start lap two, Chevrolet driver Muller locked his front brakes under pressure from the recovering Tarquini and cut across the grass, but resumed the track having given up the lead.

"When I went off, I thought's 'That's it, it over," said a relieved Muller. "Fortunately, I found the track again, and backed off to allow Gabriele into the lead as I didn't want to risk a penalty."

Muller was handed a reprieve just two laps later, when Tarquini ran wide on oil at the exit of the second Lesmo. The SEAT driver confessed to being caught out by a red and yellow oil flag at the first Lesmo, but not at the final right-hander.

Tarquini later suffered engine and braking problems, which made life easier for Rob Huff to charge into second place. The 2011 championship runner-up closed to within 0.4s of his team-mate Muller at the chequered flag, but ran out of laps to make a passing attempt.

Huff was in the thick of the action on an eventful opening lap. The Briton clashed with his other Chevrolet team-mate Alain Menu in a scrap for third place at the first Lesmo, sending the Swiss driver into the gravel.

The incident allowed Scandinavian Touring Car champion Rickard Rydell - making a one off appearance in the WTCC for Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden - to jump past Huff into third, with the opportunistic Tom Coronel snatching fourth in his ROAL Motorsport BMW.

Rydell finished fourth behind Tarquini, with Coronel just a second behind the Swede.

Independents' honours went to the SUNRED SEAT of Pepe Oriola, who completed the top six. The 17-year-old Spaniard's engine cut out on his slowing down lap.

Oriola's team-mate Tiago Monteiro was a first corner retiree in an accident that also delayed the BMWs of Stefano D'Aste (Wiechers-Sport) and Franz Englster (Team Engstler).

Results - 12 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Yvan Muller Chevrolet 26m01.705s 2. Rob Huff Chevrolet + 0.446s 3. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT + 2.305s 4. Rickard Rydell Chevrolet Sweden + 2.745s 5. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 3.796s 6. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT + 6.111s 7. Alain Menu Chevrolet + 6.326s 8. Alex MacDowall bamboo Chevrolet + 8.287s 9. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW + 8.431s 10. Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW + 9.257s 11. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW + 9.465s 12. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 12.082s 13. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 12.668s 14. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet + 15.886s 15. Charles Ng Engstler BMW + 48.135s 16. James Nash Arena Ford + 56.503s Retirements: Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 11 laps Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT 10 laps Isaac Tutumlu Proteam BMW 2 laps Andrea Barlesi SUNRED SEAT 1 lap Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 1 lap Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT 0 laps Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 0 laps 
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Gabriele Tarquini puts SEAT on Monza World Touring Car pole

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Yvan Muller spins and wins in World Touring Car race two at Monza

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