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Macau 2008: Menu wins, Muller clinches title

16 November 2008

Yvan Muller has wrapped up the 2008 World Touring Car Championship after finishing comfortably ahead of title rival Gabriele Tarquini in the first race of the day in Macau.

Alain Menu converted his pole position into a third win of the season, ahead of Andy Priaulx, but it was Muller's third place that confirmed the inevitable after Tarquini's requirement to beat his team-mate faltered down in seventh position.

An unusually composed race around a circuit renowned for its pile-ups, particularly on the opening lap, remarkably the whole field filtered through the tight Lisboa bend at the first time of asking without any problems, with Menu getting the jump on Priaulx, while Huff and Rydell moved up to third and fourth at the expense of Muller's cautious getaway.

Instead, the run into the right-hander on the second lap proved to be almost destructive as Huff made a determined effort to steal second place off Priaulx on the outside. Keeping his foot in as he squeezed between the BMW and the barrier, his failed bid instead saw him drop behind Rydell and Muller.

Detrimental in his quest to retain third place in the overall standings, Huff now found himself provisionally behind the Swede, but got the break he needed when the SEAT began coasting into retirement with a mechanical fault.

Up to that point, Rydell had caused hearts to flutter on the SEAT pit wall as he robustly defended his third position from title protagonist Muller, the two almost making contact as the Frenchman attempted to slipstream past. Their dispute would be quickly disputed by Rydell's retirement.

From here, Muller merely controlled the gap back to those behind, with Farfus, who swept his way past Huff on lap eight, getting close through the tight middle sector of the circuit, only for the SEAT to maintain a big enough gap through the long, open-throttle sections where it is only realistic to pass.

Crucially for him though, Tarquini wasn't making any headway in seventh position, the Italian matching Jordi Gene ahead of his turn-for-turn but never getting close enough to make a pass. His seventh place does, however, secure the runners-up spot in the standings, marking his best ever WTCC finish.

As such, third place was more than enough for Muller to become the first WTCC winner other than Priaulx, a result that will go some way to make up for the heartache of what had looked like a title win in Macau twelve months ago. Although it was already a formality, the win is also significant for SEAT and comes in their sixth season of touring car racing.

The race itself belonged to Menu, who resisted the late race pressure of Priaulx, the Brit having spent most of the race gradually closing the gap down to the Lacetti as it seemed to fade in the latter stages.

Nonetheless, Menu retains the car's superb record around street circuits on the weekend that signals the Lacetti's final WTCC appearance before being replaced by the Cruze next season.

Behind the podium winners, Farfus battled to fourth position, ahead of Huff, who still only has a one point cushion over now Priaulx in the battle for third overall. Gene and Tarquini made it three SEATs in the top eight, while James Thompson has a great chance of ending a tough maiden season in the Honda Accord on a high as he starts from pole position in race two.


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