Yvan Muller saw his 2013 world championship campaign get off to the best possible start as he won the second race of the day at Monza, just hours after picking up top honours in the season-opener on another successful weekend for the Chevrolet Cruze and RML team.
Due to the reverse-grid qualification rules, Muller started from tenth place on the grid, but, by the end of the first lap, was up to sixth place and, at the end of lap four, the race was as good as won, as the Frenchman swept into the lead, finding grip and traction where others has failed. Nearest rival Michel Nykjaer finished over two seconds behind the former BTCC champion.
Nykjaer had started from third and, by the end of opening lap, was chewing at the heels of Marc Basseng, who started on the front row, and Gabriele Tarquini, who started in fifth. The Italian was in the lead by the second corner, having got a tremendous start off the line. He looked to be in control, his lead rising to nearly two seconds in the early stages.
As Muller uneventfully made his way through into a commanding lead, Tarquini, Nykjaer and Basseng where enthralled in a terrific battle, with Nykjaer coming out in second place as the leading independent driver after a brave pass on Tarquini at the Parabolica on lap eight. It is also his and Team NIKA Racing's best result in the WTCC.
Tarquini was lucky to hold off 2012 GT1 champion Basseng to take his first podium for Honda, as his rival missed the rostrum by less than a tenth of a second, but the German was still the top SEAT runner in the race.
There was less action behind as Tom Chilton finished fifth, keeping young Spaniard Pepe Oriola at bay. Oriola set the fastest lap in the final stages after a puncture in race one dropped him out of a certain top five finish into retirement.
Bamboo Engineering couldn't re-enact their success of race one, James Nash finishing in seventh, with team-mate Alex MacDowall pulling into the pits with two laps to go. He is under investigation by the stewards for exceeding the track limits.
Completing the top ten was Tiago Monteiro in the second Castrol Honda, bringing the JAS run car home in eighth. Stefano d'Aste was ninth and Rob Huff tenth, both again making valuable progress through the field after starting last and from the pit-lane respectively, Huff having had a differential change before race two got underway.
Tom Coronel missed out on the points in what was really a disappointing weekend for the 'Flying Dutchman'. The veteran had to fend off ROAL Motorsport team-mate Daryll O'Young, who had started on pole under the reverse-grid system.
Tom Boardman was out of luck having started from the pits with Huff due to steering and suspension damage from the opening race, the Brit having a weekend to forget and only finishing in 16th place.
Norbert Michelisz and Rene Munnich were unfortunately lapped before the close of the race.
by Dexter Fielding