24 March 2013
Muller wins Monza WTCC opener
Yvan Muller and RML 'Cruze' to race one victory at Monza despite torrential conditions
Yvan Muller has marked his intentions for this season by winning race one of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship at a rain soaked Monza.
Muller, who started from pole position at the Italian track, led without fault and even a safety car period caused by Stefan D'Aste did little to dampen the Frenchman's sterling drive to victory. He eventually finished just under a second up on new RML team-mate, Tom Chilton.
Chilton, the former BTCC Independent champion, couldn't quite take the fight to Muller. However, he made sure of his maiden WTCC podium in what was an untroubled race for the RML pair.
Completing the podium was Bamboo Enginnering's Alex MacDowall in a somewhat lonely third place but staying out of trouble, meaning an all Chevrolet podium - and also the first WTCC podium not just for MacDowall but also for Bamboo.
Castrol Honda's Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro fought through the field from their midfield starting positions, cutting through the pack after the mid-race safety car period. In particular the Honda's looked very strong through the Lesmo's being able to turn in with better stability, meaning a better exit out of the corner and that allowed them to overtake the likes of Marc Basseng and Dary'll O'Young into Ascari to come home a respectable fourth and fifth, with Tarquini coming out on top in that inter-team battle.
Just behind in sixth, Rob Huff put in a great performance coming from 23rd and dead last on the grid to finish as top SEAT in his first race with the Leon, ahead of fellow Brit, James Nash. Nash had failed to hold off the Castrol Honda's but managed to stay ahead of the Zengo Motorsports Honda of Norbert Michelisz.
With less than two laps to go, Tom Boardman and James Nash were having a good battle over seventh place, when at the Lesmo's light contact was made and the former was forced out on the spot with broken right front steering.
Tom Coronel managed to grab a couple of points after a disastrous qualifying, coming through to ninth as the top BMW, with Switzerland's Freddy Barth completing the top-ten, despite spinning off on the exit of Ascari on the first lap.
Jean-Phllippe Dayrout just missed out on the top ten and was eleventh on his and his teams' debut in the championship.
Of the rest, Marc Basseng was given a drive through penalty, his car having still been jacked-up on the grid with three minutes to go, and he had to make do with 14th, while Mehdi Bennani had car trouble and finished 17th and last.
Michel Nykjaer, Franz Engstler, Pepe Oriola were among those that retired, the latter sidelined by a puncture. D'Aste and Boardman were the other two who failed to get to the chequered flag.
by Dexter Fielding
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