Alain Menu ended his RML Chevrolet team-mate Yvan Muller's stranglehold on the 2012 World Touring Car Championship season by taking a fraught victory in round two's reversed grid race at Valencia.
The Swiss racer survived punting the rear of polesitter Stefano D'Aste's Weichers-Sport BMW, a mid-race trip across the gravel and a last-lap clash with Tom Coronel's ROAL Motorsport BMW. The result returned Menu to the top step of the podium for the first time since the penultimate round of 2011 at Shanghai.
"When I hit Stefano I thought he closed the door a bit late, but also my move was a bit optimistic so I decided not to overtake after he went sideways," said Menu. "Then I was able to overtake him at Turn 2 on the next lap. When I hit oil with three laps to go I said 'No way!' but I looked in my mirrors and everyone else was also going off. I then backed off too much."
Coronel was able to get a run alongside Menu at Turn 6 on the last lap, but the pair made contact as Menu covered his line. Despite zig-zagging across the road, Menu regained control to take victory by 0.8 seconds.
"I had to back off the throttle on the straight when Alain came across on me," said Coronel. "I thought 'please spin' when I saw him going sideways but he did a good job to regain control and I would rather finish second after a nice fight than win an easy race by 20s."
Coronel's battered and tyre smoking BMW crossed the finish line half a second clear of Independents' Trophy winner D'Aste.
The Italian had appeared composed in the lead until running slightly wide at the exit of Turn 1 on lap seven. He then lost an opportunity to regain the position, and take his maiden WTCC victory, when he and Menu hit oil at Turn 10 two tours later. D'Aste followed Menu into the gravel, allowing Coronel to move into second spot.
Two more BMWs chased D'Aste across the line; Norbert Michelisz's similar Zengo Motorsport car ended the afternoon in fourth spot ahead of Franz Engstler's example.
Menu's Chevrolet team-mate Rob Huff completed the top six. The Briton had a less eventful race than the third RML Cruze of race one victor Muller. The defending world champion went sideways into the gravel while chasing Huff on lap 10, dropping behind Pepe Oriola's Tuenti SEAT to finish an unaccustomed eighth.
Muller continues to lead the drivers' standings on 88 points, but Menu's victory moves the Swiss into second in the points race on 61, two ahead of third-placed Coronel.
Results - 13 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Alain Menu Chevrolet 23m03.207s 2. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW + 0.861s 3. Stefano D'Aste Wiechers BMW + 1.306s 4. Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW + 1.629s 5. Franz Engstler Engstler BMW + 1.901s 6. Rob Huff Chevrolet + 3.007s 7. Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT + 5.704s 8. Yvan Muller Chevrolet + 6.368s 9. Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT + 15.044s 10. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW + 15.306s 11. Isaac Tutumlu Proteam BMW + 19.838s 12. Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT + 21.166s 13. Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT + 21.865s 14. Alex Macdowall bamboo Chevrolet + 23.167s 15. Tom Chilton Arena Ford + 25.024s 16. Pasquale di Sabatino bamboo Chevrolet + 27.071s 17. Andrea Barlesi SUNRED SEAT + 50.229s 18. Fernando Monje SUNRED SEAT + 1m04.377s Did not finish: Charles Ng Engstler BMW 10 laps James Nash Arena Ford 8 laps Darryl O'Young Special Tuning SEAT 4 laps Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 1 lap Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 0 laps Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 0 laps