Having enjoyed his first touring car pole position in qualifying, Felix Porteiro can now celebrate his maiden victory in the opening World Touring Car race at Brno following a comprehensive display of lights-to-flag driving.

Leading three more BMWs over the line in a race that saw the 320si trounce the opposition around the lengthy Czech circuit, all Porteiro had to do was to survive a crowded first corner before easing to a protected victory for BMW Team Italy-Spain.

However, it was not all joy for BMW after that hectic first bend claimed their best placed driver Andy Priaulx, the Brit being caught out in the hustle to slide into the gravel trap backwards and into a rare retirement.

Indeed, the culprit for Priaulx's demise was very unclear, the wide home straight and unusually broad first corner inviting drivers to huddle into the right-hander, in particular a fast starting Pierre-Yves Corthals, who appeared to get the nose of his SEAT down the inside the Priaulx but instead tipped him off the track. In reality though, it was unlikely few got through the first corner without some other kind of prior contact.

The melee also managed to catch Jordi Gene out, the Spaniard's hopes to avoid the carnage by going around the outside the corner proving in vain when he had nowhere to go but the gravel trap to avoid Priaulx. While Gene would recover to rejoin at the back, the BMW was stranded and along with Tom Coronel, who was unceremoniously pushed out by Luca Rangoni at the next bend, also in a precarious position, the safety car was called.

What emerged though was a BMW 1-2-3-4, Porteiro leading Jorg Muller and Augusto Farfus, who defied their starting positions to jump from seventh and ninth to second and third. Together with Alex Zanardi in fourth, there was a very 'white' theme at the front of the field.

Just behind, Nicola Larini and Yvan Muller were well up from their starting positions too, the championship contenders up from 11th and 15th, ahead of respective team-mates Alain Menu and Gabriele Tarquini, who started much higher but were running eighth and seventh instead.

With the race underway again, the field began to fragment into several battles, the four BMWs working together to quickly establish a margin over the heavier Larini and Muller, the duo never more than a second apart, but crucially never looking like they would swap positions.

Sadly for the decent Brno crowd, the finishing order largely mirrored the order at the end of the first lap, the only variety coming when Zanardi ignored Farfus' status as a title contender by sweeping past him for third at turn two on lap seven.

It meant Porteiro was allowed to complete his victory, with Muller a satisfied second in a race BMW could easily have 'adjusted' to suit their better placed drivers. Zanardi was third to complete an excellent race for the Roberto Ravaglia-run subsidiary of the BMW works team, while Farfus's fourth ensures he moves back into the lead of the championship, well in the knowledge that Priaulx will start the second race dead last.

Some ten seconds away from Farfus, Larini held on for fifth to add more points to his steady tally, while Muller will be pleased with sixth considering his starting position. Tarquini was a quiet seventh and will be fancying his chances from the front row of the grid for the second race, an event that will see Menu on pole after he finished eighth.

Just behind, but with no points to show for, James Thompson battled his way up to ninth after a good start, the Brit though having to hold off the attentions of a racy looking Massimiliano Pedala, who in turn scored his first ever Independent Trophy win in tenth place overall.


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