6 April 2008
Puebla 2008: Monteiro scores first WTCC win.
Even though it was Chevrolet's Alain Menu who started from the reverse grid pole for race two after getting mugged by the Leons of Monteiro and Muller in the first event, it proved to be another diesel-powered SEAT annihilation (with Coronel's petrol version slotting into fourth) as the various Leons came through to sweep the most important positions by the chequered flag.
The race also provided second year driver Tiago Monteiro with his first victory after switching from Formula One, as the Portuguese produced a flawless drive to lead from the first corner.
An ecstatic Monteiro said, “I'm very happy because this is my first victory thanks to a car that adapted perfectly well to the track and great teamwork. We've scored a lot of points for SEAT which is the most important. And I'm personally very happy.”
Pole-sitter, Menu, who eventually finished seventh (the first non-SEAT finisher) was less than happy with his machinery: “The car felt a little bit better [than it had in race 1], although it now had some understeer. I dropped to second at the standing start and although I did my utmost there was just no keeping the turbo diesels behind. On this track we didn't seem to have the necessary grunt, but I'm still happy that I scored points in both races.”
The start was clean but, once again, Jörg Müller and Alessandro Zanardi had clashes on the first lap, and the German later left the track, rejoining to finish the race behind Zanardi in twelfth place. Menu also ran wide and fell down to tenth position, a mistake that allowed the SEATs to dominate. The Swiss battled back up to seventh behind Tom Coronel, who rounded off SEAT's top six positions.
Rickard Rydell and Gabriele Tarquini battled for second position with the Swede eventually coming out on top after Tarquini ran wide on lap 14. Rydell had made another great start, coming up from seventh to fourth on the first lap, while Tarquini had jumped up to third at the getaway, running just ahead of eventual fourth-place finisher Yvan Muller. Rydell: “It's just great to be twice on the podium on the same day. I've been a bit faster than Gabriele and managed to take an excellent second position that makes me feel very happy.”
First race winner Jordi Gené took advantage of the problems for Menu and Chevrolet team-mate Nicola Larini - the latter failing to finish after his rear suspension collapsed following a collision with another car - to battle Muller for fifth position, but came off worse. While Muller then proceeded to overtake Menu, Gene had to wait for the Chevy driver's mistake to eventually claim a top five place.
Reigning champion Andy Priaulx was the top BMW runner, claiming a point in eighth place as he fought off Menu and Huff for most of the race. As has often been the case in Mexico, however, the BMWs struggled once again, and Priaulx was the only representative of the German manufacturer to score during the weekend: “I'm glad I tried out ice racing a couple of weeks ago as the track was as slippery as ever today.” The two-time champion commented, “Off the racing line you were simply left without a chance. The point I scored in race two was definitely the best ever, if you take the SEAT dominance into consideration.”
Fellow Briton Huff had another eventful race as, after a poor start, he made his way back up to eighth, only to drop two places shortly afterwards. For the rest of the race, he battled with Priaulx and Menu and eventually finished just outside the points, in ninth.
Pierre-Yves Corthals won the Independents' class to add to his triumph in race one, and is now level on points with Stefano d'Aste, who finished behind him in 14th, and Olivier Tielemans, who had won both races in Brazil.
Four SEAT men - Rydell, Tarquini, Muller and Gené - lead the overall drivers' championship, while SEAT has already built a solid advantage in the manufacturers' championship ahead of the resumption of hostilities in Valencia next month.
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