Chevrolet claims two wins in US Sonoma: Chevrolet won both races in the first visit ever WTCC event in the USA. Yvan Muller and Rob Huff won a race each, and are now tied in points in the Drivers’ championship.
Muller and Huff completed a one-two success in Race 1 after Alain Menu was forced out of the lead by technical problems, sustained after contact with Gabriele Tarquini at the start of the race. Huff won Race 2 after a drive-through penalty dashed Muller’s hopes of a double. Alain Menu, who started Race 2 from 10th, finished in 4th position.
Today’s results mean Chevrolet is now very close to mathematically securing its third WTCC Constructors’ title. The RML-run Cruzes fell 10 points short from conquering the crown today, and the team will have to wait until the next round in Japan before opening the champagne bottles.
The fight for the Drivers’ title is more open than ever, with Muller and Huff now tied with 315 points. The Frenchman remains on top of the standings as he has won more races. Menu is 49 points behind but still in contention despite his misfortune at Sonoma.
Race 1 saw a great start for the Cruzes, which quickly took the first three positions. Poleman Menu was ahead of teammates Muller and Huff, but the Swiss had to lift off as he developed a steering issue on lap 4. Menu was forced to the pits for repairs, losing four laps in the process.
Despite starting from the middle of the grid in Race 2, Muller and Huff quickly progressed to
3rd and 4th position respectively after a couple of laps. With race leader Mehdi Bennani in a BMW spinning on lap 4, the duo gained a position, but on lap 5 contact between Muller and Franz Engstler, also in a BMW, paved the way for the Frenchman to take the lead.
The stewards, however, penalized Muller with a drive-through, effectively ending any hopes of a points finish and paving the way for Huff, who controlled BMW’s Norbert Michelisz’s attacks in the closing laps.
The WTCC now crosses the Pacific for the Asian tour that traditionally closes the season and includes stops in Japan, China and Macau.
Rob Huff (2nd / 1st): “It’s been a fantastic day here in Sonoma. I couldn’t have asked for more and the championship situation is now completely open again. There was little I could do against Yvan in Race 1. I was struggling to follow him, but 2nd was a good result.
“In Race 2, I was following Yvan again and then he was handed a drive through penalty, which was a lucky break for me. In the final laps, Michelisz was very close, I was very cautious not to damage my tires, even because I knew Norbert is a very fair driver and he wouldn’t do anything crazy. Interestingly, someone seems to have forgotten the checkered flag at the end of the race, so we all did an extra lap at race speed, I found that pretty entertaining.”
Yvan Muller (1st / 14th) : “Race 1 was tough, but I started well and then used every opportunity I had. When Alain had the problem with the steering, I took the lead and focused on controlling the race. It’s a very nice feeling to win in America, the home of Chevrolet.
“I had a very good start in Race 2, but then there was a very slight contact with Engstler which did not even leave a mark on my bumper. Despite this, I was still handed the drive through penalty. I do not want to comment on the stewards’ decision; what happened, happened. The result is that the championship is now completely open and everything will start from scratch in Japan.
Alain Menu (17th / 4th): “I was very unlucky to have the steering problem in Race 1 when I was leading. Since the very start of the race, I noticed something was wrong with the steering wheel. It got harder and harder and was locking at times, so I decided to stop in the pits because the car was impossible to drive.
“It’s a pity because I lost a lot of important points. Race 2 was pretty uneventful, I didn’t start well, but managed to climb to 4th position.”
Eric Neve: “It’s wonderful to win both races in the US and to be so close to the third Constructors’ title. Both races were very exciting and rich in emotions. The fight in the Drivers’ championship is now completely open again and that promises a thrilling end of the season. I’m sorry for what happened to Alain in Race 1, but that is racing.”
Ron Hartvelt, RML Project Manager: “We had a challenging weekend but the results were superb. It was great to claim two wins on home soil in our first trip to the States. The Drivers’ championship is still wide open and we are looking forward to the final three WTCC rounds in Asia.”
SONOMA RACE 1 RESULT
1. Y Muller Chevrolet Cruze 13 laps in 23m34s369
2. R Huff Chevrolet Cruze + 0s564
3. N Michelisz BMW 320 TC + 5s444
4. G Tarquini SEAT Le¢n WTCC + 8s847
5. A MacDowall Chevrolet Cruze +11s803
SONOMA RACE 2 RESULTS
1. R Huff Chevrolet Cruze 15 laps in 29m19s176
2. N Michelisz BMW 320 TC + 0s370
3. G Tarquini SEAT Le¢n WTCC + 1s199
4. A Menu Chevrolet Cruze + 3s718
5. T Coronel BMW 320 TC + 7s571
WTCC DRIVERS STANDINGS AFTER RACE 18 OF 24
1. Muller (Chevrolet), Huff (Chevrolet), 315; 3. Menu (Chevrolet), 267; 4. Tarquini (SEAT), 193 ; 5. Coronel (BMW), 164 ; 7. Michelisz (BMW), 152; …10. McDowall (Chevrolet), 52; …15. Nykjær (Chevrolet), 20; …17. Rydell (Chevrolet), 14;
WTCC MANUFACTURERS STANDINGS AFTER RACE 18 OF 24
1. Chevrolet, 761 points; 2. BMW, 486; 3. SEAT, 472.
NEXT RACE: Race of Japan, Suzuka, 19-21 October 2012.