Since the beginning of the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Championship when Tom Chilton was announced as team mate to Yvan Muller in the Lukoil RML Chevrolet team, I stated that he was quick enough to take a pole position and a win before the seasons end...
At Sonoma Raceway, he delivered both.
And my god did I cheer!
This years championship has seen overall race wins for Chevrolet drivers Yvan Muller, Michel Nykjaer, James Nash and now Tom Chilton. (Yes I know, Pepe Oriola won a race in Marrakech but that was in a SEAT Leon) Tom has proved this year he can mix it with his more experienced team mate who has been driving the Cruze since 2010 so a win wasnt far away.
As far as the Sonoma WTCC event was concerned, this was the first of the tracks where Yvan Muller could win his fourth WTCC Title. To do it he would needto outscore both Michel Nykjaer and Gabriele Tarquini significantly in both races.
In Qualifying, as well as Chilton taking pole position with Muller on the front row with him, there was one big loser: Tom Coronel. The ROAL Motorsport driver had the speed to get into Q2 but with his time set earlier on in Q1, he lost out to other cars setting faster laps. Tom would start both races in 13th place, but that didn't stop him attacking in both races.
So after Qualifying was over, the race one grid read as: Chilton, Muller, Monteiro, Oriola, MacDowall, Nash, Michelisz, Huff, Nykjaer and Tarquini. This meant that Tarquini was on Pole Position for race two, but bad luck was to befall Nykjaer. After qualifying, his car was adjudged to have a techncal infringement and along with the Campos SEAT drivers of Valente and Monje, he was sent to the back of the grid for race one.
For Muller, this made his attempt at taking the title a little easier as Nykjaer was 2nd in the title race.
In race one, Chilton led from the rolling start and never looked back. However Montiero got a great start from 3rd on the grid and leaped past Muller into 2nd place. The Portuguese Honda driver would do his best to hassle Chilton but he would not get past and with Muller staying in 3rd, the race one podium was set.
Muller did suffer some pressure from the Bamboo Engineering Cruzes of Alex MacDowall and James Nash but held them both off. This ws a good showing from MacDowall as he is yet to take a win this year whilst Nash has a win and the Yokohama Independents title lead. Tarquini brough his Honda Civic home in 6th.
However the battle of race one was down to Huff, Coronel, Basseng, D'Aste, Oriola and the amazing Tom Boardman who started race one in 20th position. This train of cars was being held up by Huff in his Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon and it was obvious at the time that Coronoel and the others were faster. Oriola fell in with this group after outbraking himself at the chicane earlier in the race.
Nykjaer and Valente made good progress through the field as they hassled James Thompson for 13th place until the last lap when they both made it past the Lada. Whilst the Chevrolet was the car to have, the Lada's wre not happy in the US.
The race finished with Chilton taking his first WTCC from a charging Monteiro with Muller in 3rd. MacDowall, Nash and Tarquini took 4th, 5th and 6th repectivel and behind them came Coronel, who passed Huffy 3 laps from the end with Huff, Basseng and D'Aste rounding out the top 10.
With Nykjaer being put to the back of the grid for race one, this ment that ProTeam driver Mehdi Benanni was promoted to 2nd on the grid for race two. Normally when he's on the front row of the grid for race two, Bennani makes a cracking start but in this case, Tarquini held the BMW at bay to lead into the first corner.
Michelisz lost out to Huff who took third place on the road whilst Tom Chilton got too much wheelspin and fell down the order from his 10th spot. Chilton would make it to 11th place by the end of the race. Huffy would soon retire with a puncture however promoting the Zengo Honda driver to 3rd place.
However Michelisz set off after Benanni and set the fastest lap in the process, but this was soon to be a lesson in defence for the young hungarian. As ever, Muller had made his way through the field passing Montiero, Nash and the retiring Huff and hassled Michelisz to the end. Coronel again fought his way through the field from 12th on the grid to pass Nash, Basseng and D'Aste taking fellow BMW driver Fredy Barth with him for company. Both drivers again showing that the BMW has pace.
So race two finished with Tarquini taking the win from Benanni with Michelisz in 3rd. Muller took 4th with Monteiro, Coronel, Barth, Nash, Basseng and D'Aste rounding out the top ten finishers.
With Tarquini and Michelisz taking 1st and 3rd in race two, this sealed the Manufacturers Title for Honda in 2013. With their only competition being Lada who have not taken a podium or win yet this season, Honda where well and truly pleased to achieve this in their first year as a Works Team in the WTCC.
What this did mean though was that Muller would have to wait for his title until the next round that was due to take place at Suzuka in Japan on the East Curcuit. Howver the chances of him being caught in the title race are slim and both Nykjaer and Tarquini would need Muller to retire from all of the races at Japan, China and Macau...
Not bloody likely...
With the championship now heading to the Asian side of the calendar, this also meant the beginning of the Eurosport Asia Trophy in the WTCC. This is a trophy that is new for this year where any drivers from Japan, China or Macau can take part in Normally Aspirated 2 litre Super 2000 touring cars of even in the current 1.6 litre Turbo S2000 touring cars where they can win prize money. This is done to promote touring car racing in Asia where there is plenty of homegrown talent always wiling to take part in the overall championship.
However I, like many WTCC fans must register my disappointment that the WTCC is again using the East Circuit which is quite imply akin to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. Hopefully next year, the FIA and the WTCC will find the money and allow the series to race on the Gand Prix circuit.
What a sight it would be to see the new breed of Super 2000 cars at full chat coming through the 130R corner...
Anyway, as you can tell I'm catching up on my blogs again and pretty soon I should have the Japan blog up.
Until then, Cheers!