After recent victories by the England cricket and football teams in recent weeks, Tom Chilton kept England celebrating in world sport by taking his maiden victory in the FIA World Touring Car Championship round nine at Sonoma Raceway in California, USA.

Chilton took an uninterrupted lights-to-flag win as he made the most from starting on pole, then held off an early charge from Tiago Monteiro to take a superb and experienced drive to victory for RML Chevrolet.

Chilton's early defensive - but very fair - driving meant that the Monteiro's Honda Civic could not find a way through and the Portuguese former GP driver had to make do with a super second, still equalling his best result of the year.

A few seconds behind was champion-to-be Yvan Muller, who for once was simply unable to keep up with the pace at the front leaving him needing a podium in race 2 to be guaranteed of a fourth world title coming out of Sonoma.

The battling Bamboo Engineering pair were next up, Alex MacDowall at last having some luck taking top independent honours and scoring heavily in fourth after finding a way past James Nash halfway through the race. The duo also made sure that they kept the RML Chevrolet of Muller on his toes up ahead.

Gabriele Tarquini kept out of any fights on his way to finishing sixth from his ninth place start, backing up his team mate's strong display of pace. Tom Coronel rallied it out with Rob Huff for seventh and the ROAL BMW driver nudged his way past, Huff finishing as top SEAT ahead of team mate Marc Basseng who was ninth, marking a return to the points after enduring some poor luck of late.

Stefano D'Aste was also involved with this titanic battle, and rounds off the top ten scorers ahead of Pepe Oriola, who ran wide on lap one and never recovered. He will be annoyed with eleventh and was only just faster than Tom Boardman, the Special Tuning Racing driver having by far his best run since a wet outing at the opening round in Monza. While marginally away from the points, fourth in the Yokohama trophy category is still very good for the 29-year-old.

Pre-Sonoma Independent trophy points leader, Michel Nykjaer - who started from the back after a post-qualifying penalty for a technical infringement - eventually found his way through a seven-car train and finished in a disappointing and unlucky 13th, a case of 'too little too late' for the Great Dane.

In all, 23 cars completed the race in a clean fashion without so much as a nudge here and there. The non-finisher was former Sonoma resident Darryl O'Young, who had a mystery front end problem and made a dive for the pits early in the race. He resurfaced to put in a few installation laps later on to check that the repaired car would be ready for race two later in the day.

by Dexter Fielding