Gabriele Tarquini took his 19th FIA WTCC career victory and his second of the current season, and in doing so managed to hold off Yvan Muller's inevitable 2013 title triumph for at least one more race.
The Honda driver had begun from second place on the grid and got off to a flying start to take the lead from Mehdi Bennani at turn one, a position he then managed to keep to the chequered flag. The 51-year-old said the start was 'masterful' in the post race interview and a far cry from last year when he tried and failed to pass Alain Menu at the same spot.
"The key to my victory was the start. It's quite unbelievable and a masterpiece because to beat a rear-wheel drive car under acceleration is very, very nice," he said. "It's a great comeback after not scoring in so many races."
After being ousted from the lead, Bennani recovered to race on to second place as top independent despite broken power steering that had failed on the first familiarisation lap, equalling his best-ever result from earlier in the season.
Bennani didn't have it easy, however, and was certainly kept awake by the attentions of third place man Norbert Michelisz, who in turn was busy holding off a very late charge by Yvan Muller who eventually had to settle for fourth. Despite not clinching the title this weekend, it's still a good day at the office for Muller that sees him picked up solid points and take another big step to what now must be an odds-on title-clinching chance at Suzuka in Japan in two weeks time.
Tiago Monteiro finished race two in fifth to go with his second place in race one, which adding to a fantastic weekend for Honda. Coupled with Tarquini's victory and Michelisz' podium, the Japanese manufacturer succeeded in mathematically clinching the manufacturers title this weekend, having got the better of LADA in the early stages of the season to pull away by a huge margin.
Tom Coronel grabbed first BMW honours for a top six showing, with fellow BMW driver Freddy Barth having a better time in seventh comfortably heading off James Nash who finished in eighth. Marc Basseng taking a second consecutive ninth place to go alongside his race one efforts, with Stefano D'Aste likewise taking his second tenth place of the day.
Missing out on points and generally frustrated with a clear lack of grip at the dusty Sonoma circuit, Tom Chilton and Alex MacDowall had races to well and truly forget. The race one winner came home in a sometimes sideways eleventh while MacDowall brought the Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet to the flag in P13.
In all, race two saw 20 classified finishers in what proved to be a bit of a car breaker. The last man listed on track was Rob Huff who had been forced a lap down after needing to pit to change his front tyre due to picking up a puncture.
Pepe Oriola and Tom Boardman saw their race one efforts nullified in race two, both retiring with technical issues. Franz Engstler and his BMW team mate Charles Ng were similarly afflicted as the track temperature soared in sunny afternoon conditions in Northern California and put a premium on optimal car set-up and bullet-proof electrical systems.
by Dexter Fielding