WTCR Ningbo: Muller wins, assumes points lead as Tarquini retires

Yvan Muller won the World Touring Car Cup's reversed-grid race at Ningbo to assume the points lead, after chief title rival Gabriele Tarquini stopped on the opening lap

WTCR Ningbo: Muller wins, assumes points lead as Tarquini retires

Four-time World Touring Car champion Muller assumed the lead at the start, beating polesitter Mehdi Bennani through the Turn 1 kink and then in the braking zone for the Turn 2 left-hander.

After surviving a tap from the Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTI of Bennani on the first lap, Muller ran untroubled over the remaining 12 laps as he stretched his Hyundai i30 N clear of the pack.

Even by backing off by two seconds on the final lap, Muller still crossed the line 2.6 seconds clear of Bennani to claim his third victory of the WTCR season.

Tarquini's retirement after completing three laps - having run in the lower reaches of the top 10 on lap one before visiting the pits - meant the power battle between the two Hyundais shifted again, with Muller now 14 points ahead of the BRC Racing driver Tarquini.

With Bennani a comfortable second, the real interest was in the battle for the final podium position behind.

Muller's nephew Yann Ehrlacher held the position for the majority of the race after retaining his third at the start, but came under increasing pressure from the Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS of Frederic Vervisch late on.

Vervisch first attempted a pass on lap 10 of the 13-lap race off Turn 2 before settling in behind the Munnich Motorsport Honda Civic, but later tried a move at the same spot on the penultimate lap.

Getting a better exit off the corner than Ehrlacher, Vervisch tried to get his Audi up the inside on the run to the Turn 3 left-hander, only for Ehrlacher to move over in defence of his position.

The pair made contact and both went off, with Vervisch dropping to seventh and Ehrlacher to 10th.

Ehrlacher's Munnich team-mate Esteban Guerrieri instead gratefully inherited third - scoring his second podium of the weekend - while Comtoyou Audi driver Denis Dupont recorded his best result of the season by finishing fourth.

Guerrieri's run to third began when he came out on top of an entertaining tussle with Rob Huff, who ended up fifth ahead of Vervisch - who got back ahead of Muller's YMR Hyundai team-mate Thed Bjork on the final lap.

Nathaneal Berthon (Comtoyou Audi), the sole surviving BRC Hyundai of Norbert Michelisz and Campos Racing Cupra driver Pepe Oriola completed the points - although Michelisz later received a five-second penalty for breaching track limits that promoted Oriola and Aurelien Panis to ninth and 10th.

Ehrlacher's race was compounded when he was hit by Boutsen Ginion Honda debutant Ma Qing Hua on the final lap.

Ma crossed the line in 14th, while Ehrlacher was classified 18th after stopping as a result of the contact.

Result - 13 laps

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Yvan Muller YMR Hyundai 24m32.355s
2 Mehdi Bennani Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 2.620s
3 Esteban Guerrieri Munnich Motorsport Honda 8.569s
4 Denis Dupont Comtoyou Racing Audi 9.965s
5 Rob Huff Sebastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen 12.526s
6 Frederic Vervisch Comtoyou Racing Audi 12.629s
7 Thed Bjork YMR Hyundai 12.796s
8 Nathanael Berthon Comtoyou Racing Audi 12.961s
9 Pepe Oriola Campos Racing Cupra 15.337s
10 Aurelien Panis Comtoyou Racing Audi 18.019s
11 Norbert Michelisz BRC Racing Team Hyundai 18.257s
12 Kevin Ceccon Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 22.473s
13 Fabrizio Giovanardi Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo 27.413s
14 Gordon Shedden WRT Audi 31.601s
15 Tom Coronel Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 32.475s
16 Mat'o Homola DG Sport Competition Peugeot 33.618s
17 Ma Qinghua Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda 1m01.012s
18 Yann Ehrlacher Munnich Motorsport Honda 1 Lap
19 Timo Scheider Munnich Motorsport Honda 1 Lap
20 Norbert Nagy Zengo Motorsport Cupra 3 Laps
- Aurelien Comte DG Sport Competition Peugeot Retirement
- John Filippi Campos Racing Cupra Retirement
- Jean-Karl Vernay WRT Audi Retirement
- Gabriele Tarquini BRC Racing Team Hyundai Retirement
- Zsolt Szabo Zengo Motorsport Cupra Retirement


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WTCR Ningbo: Thed Bjork helps 2018 title hopes with victory

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Series WTCR
Drivers Yvan Muller , Gabriele Tarquini
Author Jack Cozens
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