Alain Menu led from lights to flag in the first ever World Touring Car Championship race to be held on the streets of Porto, heading a Chevrolet 1-2-3 in an event blighted by a lengthy safety car period.

Although the field managed to use the rolling start to safely negotiate the opening corners on the tight Portuguese street circuit, championship leader Augusto Farfus showed the first sign of what was to come as he turned BMW stablemate Alex Zanardi around at turn ten, causing a break between the leading group and the chasing pack. Fortunately, Zanardi managed to get his car facing head on into the group behind, allowing the majority of the field to pass either side without serious delay.

Alfa Romeo's James Thompson was the only one to appear to suffer damage in the incident, the red 156 smoking from its front left wheel for the next couple of laps, but the Briton pressed on regardless.

Greater damage was inflicted next time around, however, as Emmett O'Brien ran wide in turn 13 and ploughed into the tyres. With the rear of his lime-green SEAT sticking out into the road, it was inevitable that someone would eventually tag it, but Sergio Hernandez made sure the job was done properly by ramming the GR Asia car squarely in the back.

Roberto Colciago also became embroiled in the wreck, the Italian catching Hernandez's BMW a heavy glancing blow with the right-front corner of his Castrol-Backed Leon and ripping the clashing wheels off each car. Colciago managed to keep running, however, limping the damaged SEAT back to the pits, no doubt regretting the ten-place penalty for another accident in qualifying - this time with Hernandez's fellow GP2 refugee Felix Porteiro - which condemned him to a 21st place start.

With debris strewn across the road at was already a tight turn, the organisers had no alternative but to deploy the safety car, bunching the field up behind Menu in the order Rob Huff, Nicola Larini, Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Coronel, Yvan Muller, Andy Priaulx and Jorg Muller, with Farfus - who remained under investigation for the Zanardi incident to the end - just outside the points positions. Stefano d'Aste's Weichers-Sport BMW headed the depleted privateer runners in eleventh place, with the cushion of Michel Jourdain Jr splitting him from second in class Pierre-Yves Corthals.

Having survived a side-by-side duel with team-mate Huff at the initial green light, which lasted through to turn three before the Briton finally yielded, Menu was confident that he could hold the advantage from a single-file restart, but the Swiss veteran was made to wait - and wait some more - as the clear-up operation dragged on.

With the race extended by two laps, to 13, the signal to restart finally came at the start of lap nine and, while Menu and Huff made good their escape, the more heavily laden Larini found his mirrors full of the eager Tarquini. The two Italians ducked and weaved for a couple of corners before the puff went out of Tarquini's challenge, effectively ending the battle for the podium, barring mistakes up front.

Another safety car period briefly threatened when Olivier Thielemans put the second Alfa into the wall approaching turn ten, but the efficient safety crews covered and cleared the damaged 156 with a local yellow, ensuring that the enthusiastic crowd got some extended racing for their money.

With the Chevys apparently comfortable out front and the chasing SEAT holding station in places four, five and six, attention switched to the battle for the final couple of points. Priaulx, still winless in 2007, held sway over Muller, but it wasn't for wont of the German trying, the Team Germany driver swiping the right-hand mirror from his car in the tight final chicane.

That incident followed Farfus only realistic opportunity of making eighth place - and pole for race two - when Muller slowed slightly in turn eight. There wasn't room for the Brazilian to take advantage, however, and the order remained more or less set to the flag.

More or less in that there was a minor change among the SEATs, with Yvan Muller gaining a place from Coronel, who slowed on the final lap and almost ceded further ground to Priaulx on the run to the flag but held on to score his first points since round one.

Similarly, there was no change in the privateer ranks, with d'Aste holding on for eleventh overall, two pots ahead of Corthals. Local hero Tiago Monteiro was unable to make up any significant ground after a poor qualifying performance and ended the race 15th.

Out front, however, it was a case of the blues for everyone else as the Chevrolet team racked up its best finish in three seasons of WTCC competition, Menu taking his third win from pole in 2007 to move up one place in the standings.

With the overall leader, Farfus, not scoring and having to start race two from ninth on a track with few passing opportunities, the second race will offer a chance for the Brazilian's pursuers - all of whom did add to their tally - to close the gap. Farfus holds a scant three-point lead over Jorg Muller, with the German's front row partner Priaulx next up.


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