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Russia 2013: Michel Nykjaer takes race two win in Moscow

9 June 2013

Michael Nykjaer held off a late challenge from championship leader Yvan Muller to take his third win of the season at the end of race two at Moscow, setting the WTCC lap record of 1:44.456s for the new 2.46-mile (3.955-km), 15-turn circuit in the process.

Initially it was Mehdi Bennani in his ProTeam BMW who had held an early lead of nearly two seconds over Nykjaer, with Gabriele Tarquini holding up the following pack. Bennani was eventually caught by Nykjaer who tried a few bites of the cherry before finally taking the lead on lap 7 of the 13-lap race.

Once in front, it was a position Nykjaer managed to keep to the finish. That gave him his third win of the season after earlier successes in Morocco and Austria, second only to Muller who had made it four wins in 2013 earlier in the day with success in race one.

Muller was busy monstering his way through the pack in his RML Chevrolet, somewhat helped by James Thompson and Tom Coronel taking each other off early on in the race through. Nykjaer was able to withstand the late pressure that Muller brought to bear and in the end the two Chevrolet Cruze cars crossed the line less than four tenths apart.

SEAT's Rob Huff came through unscathed from a battle with BMW's Mehdi Bennani to claim the final podium position in third, with Bennani dropping way back after spinning while attempting to keep Huff at bay. Tuenti Racing's Pepe Oriola, who at one point was early spun around by an exuberant Gabriele Tarquini, quietly kept his composure to take fourth by holding off Norbert Michelisz who claimed fifth and who was once again the top Honda as Tarquini fell to seventh behind Tom Chilton as Castrol JAS Honda struggled to keep up with the front-runners.

Finishing behind Tarquini, Stefano d'Aste picked his way through the field to pick up a good eighth as the top BMW. Daryll O'Young was undoubtedly having a better time of it than he had earlier in the day in race one by finishing in ninth place ahead of Bamboo Engineering's James Nash who followed in tenth but who loses his lead in the Yokohama Driver's Trophy Nykjaer after failing to pick up solid points this weekend.

And even more literally point-less Moscow outing awaited Alex MacDowall who finished just outside the points for a second time albeit with a slightly stronger 11th place showing in race two than he'd managed earlier. The Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Cruze finished just ahead of Tiago Monteiro in twelfth and Marc Basseng who ended the day in 13th.

Tom Coronel suffered an early race spin but managed to get going again and came home in 14th place ahead of Franz Engstler and the unlucky Bennani, whose spin while battling Huff for a podium place ended up dropping him to 16th. Russian racer Nikolay Karamyshev, who was making his WTCC d├ębut this weekend, had a solid learning experience as he drove his way to 17th, even managing to beat his more experienced Campos Racing team mate Fernando Monje to the line.

Rene Munnich is yet to score points in 2013 and his luck didn't improve in Moscow after he retired two laps from the flag, although he still featured in the classified results. Charles Ng retired early in the race as a result of the major damage inflicted on his BWM in the race one accident, while Freddy Barth's Weichers BMW was withdrawn from the event prior to the start as a result of damage to both car and driver.

The LADA squad had a race two to forget: James Thompson found himself involved in a racing incident whilst battling for third and retired on lap 4; while his team mate Mikhail Kozlovskiy pulled into the pits with technical issues on lap 7.

With Muller finishing in second, his lead over Tarquini in the 2013 WTCC standings is now a formidable 113 points. Tarquini is also now at risk of falling prey to Michael Nykjaer, whose race two win moved him up to third place in the standings ahead of James Nash and only six points adrift of overhauling the veteran Italian.

Tarquini will be determined to hold off that threat while doing everything he can to reduce the gap to Muller at the next WTCC event of the season at Portimao in Portugal on June 30, after which a five-week long summer hiatus awaits.

by Dexter Fielding


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