Former European cup champion Michel Nykjaer held off a charge from fellow Chevrolet drivers James Nash and Yvan Muller to take his – and NIKA Racings - second-ever race victory in the FIA World Touring Car Championship on Sunday afternoon.
The win by the 'Great Dane' lifts him up to the dizzy heights of third in the championship table where he is right behind rival independent James Nash in the battle for top Yokohama trophy drivers.
Nykjaer had started on pole after the race stewards handed out grid penalties to 11 drivers late last night, after breaches of driving standards by select participants during qualifying which had also promoted Nash to the front row alongside Nykjaer. (See separate story
Nash spent the entire race desperately attempting to pass Nykjaer at any possible passing occasion, but eventually the youngster had to settle for second best while managing to hold off Yvan Muller whose qualifying infraction had cost him the race pole and left him having to fight back from 14th position. Muller managed to keep out of trouble, allowing him to show his true pace for race two later in the day.
Mehdi Bennani continued his strong form from the previous round at the Hungaroring to claim fourth as the top BMW, having just lost out to Muller with little more than 2 laps left in the race. He finished less than two seconds behind race winner Nykjaer at the chequered flag.
Alex MacDowall battled through to fifth and just beat Freddy Barth to the line, the sixth-place man having a strong race not least thanks to the qualifying grid shake-up. Tom Chilton couldn't match his team mate's startling race pace, and ended up in seventh having survived an earlier battle with top SEAT finisher Rob Huff who claimed eighth. James Thompson in his LADA dropped back a little from his P4 grid spot, but still bagged more points in ninth which isn't too bad at all for the former double British champion.
Tom Coronel rounded out the point scorers in tenth, but he was involved in a late race collision with fellow BMW drivers Charles Ng, Darryl O'Young and Franz Engstler: Engstler got spun around by Coronel, and in the process O'Young ran into the German with two laps remaining. Engstler and O'Young retired as a result while Ng, who had also been caught up in the incident, limped home in last place.
Pepe Oriola and Gabriele Tarquini struggled to recover from their qualifying penalties and ended up in eleventh and twelfth respectively. Tarquini was the top Honda driver, but like Oriola he'll be pleased to get Race 1 out of the way so that he can look toward a more competitive showing later on for race two.
A pair of Hondas battled it out for P13 and 14, with Tiago Monteiro coming out in the nominally 'unlucky' position ahead of Norbet Michelisz in his Zengo Motorsport Civic. Stefano d'Aste, Mikhail Kozlovskiy, Rene Munnich and Charles Ng rounded out the rest of classified finishes from 15th through to 18th.
Capping a poor weekend so far, Marc Basseng retired with mechanical issues at two-thirds race distance. Campos SUNRED SEAT team mates Hugo Valente and Fernando Monje also ended their race in the pits with car issues.
Full race one results
by Dexter Fielding