Nicky Catsburg came within two laps of claiming his maiden WTCC race win, only to see reigning world champion Jose Maria Lopez drag his ailing Citroen back into top spot.

Lopez had led from the start, despite starting - contentiously - from the inside of row two, and appeared to heading for his second win of the season until a mistake on lap three allowed the Lada driver back onto his tail. Another, more minor error, from Lopez then allowed Catsburg to pounce and, with race one winner Tiago Monteiro also filling his mirrors, the Argentine could only watch as the new leader pulled out an advantage.

While Catsburg eased away, Lopez was growing increasingly agitated on the radio, trying to work out why his car had run off the road and what the extent of the damage was. Curiously, Citroen team-mate, and race two polesitter, Yvan Muller had also his problems on lap three, but his drop to eighth place was not helped by heavy contact with Honda's Rob Huff, who had to choose between hitting the Citroen or a sizeable tyre stack and only added to the minor scarring already inflicted by Catsburg as the Dutchman snatched P2 from Muller into the first turn of the race.

Catsburg became Lada's only hope of decent points when team-mate Hugo Valente pulled off on lap five and Gabriele Tarquini began to fade off the back of the top ten, but he could not shake Lopez, who still had the Honda trio of Monteiro, Huff and Norbert Michelisz in his mirrors. As the Vesta's tyres began to go past their best, the chasing pack homed in on Catsburg and, despite resisting them for several laps, the Dutchman was powerless to prevent, first, Lopez and, then, Monteiro from muscling their way through.

"Of course, it would have been nice to finish P1, and I had hoped, as my tyres were fading and Jose Maria was closing in, that I could hold on for the win," Catsburg commented, "Still, third position is an excellent result for the team and for me, my first podium in the WTCC and for Lada Sport Rosneft."

The Portuguese veteran, who had won race one with a late pass on Mehdi Bennani, took a couple of hard looks at Lopez, but didn't quite have an answer to the Citroen's pace and had to settle for second, just 0.7secs adrift of top spot, while Catsburg at least earned a podium for his efforts despite some late attention from Thed Bjork.

The Swede had quietly made his way up the order, aided by Muller's mistake and Huff's late exit as the Briton pulled off with two laps to run, but then out-Michelisz'd Michelisz by jumping the Hungarian at the penultimate corner to bring Polestar Cyan Volvo fourth place.

Michelisz, who heads to his home race next weekend, held on to fifth despite Muller closing to within a tenth of the Honda, while Bennani, Tom Chilton, Fredrik Ekblom and Tom Coronel rounded out the top ten.

"We got our starting strategy wrong in the main race and, from that moment on, I was out of it as my car wasn't set up to drive in the pack," Muller revealed, "Some of the drivers' behaviour was a little borderline, but none of that would have happened if I had got a good start!"

Despite his victory, Lopez - who admitted that he was lucky to see the chequered flag - cedes the lead of the championship to Monteiro, whose 1-2 finishes over the weekend means that the Argentine has lost top spot in the points for the first time in his entire WTCC career.

"I'm happy to be driving a Citro?n that is so quick - and so solid!" Lopez admitted, "The start of the main race was important as I got away perfectly and managed to take the lead. I pushed hard to open up a bit of an advantage over the first two laps but then I felt some major vibrations in the rear left of my car.

"Something was broken - the noise disappeared, then came back again and, on all the right-hand turns, I thought I was going to have to pull out! I tried to stay focused and asked the team how many laps were left. Nick seemed to be struggling at the end and I managed to get past him, but it was really tight right down to the wire. That makes this win even more enjoyable."

Only a point separates Monteiro and Lopez heading to Budapest next weekend, with Michelisz and Huff similarly divided in the battle for third.

"This has been an amazing weekend both for myself and for the team," Monteiro enthused, "I could smell another win in the main race, but we just couldn't quite make it. To have a first and a second though means this is my best weekend of my WTCC career and I'm the first Portuguese driver to ever lead an FIA World Championship, so I'm really, really delighted."



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