Monday, 18 November 2013

WTCC Macau: Muller and Huff step up as Chaos reigns...

Well, The FIA World Touring Car Championship enjoyed its usual spectacular finale on the streets of Macau.

With Yvan Muller declared Champion, the race for 2nd place in the championship behind was down to Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Chilton and James Nash and Macau didn't not disappoint in mixing this battle up.

During practice, Chilton had a big accident which damaged the Chevrolet Cruze and put him on the back foot. After Qualifying, Tarquini needed an engine change which ruled him out of race one and put him at the back of the race two grid.

A "normal for Macau" disrupted qualifying session which saw three stoppages during Q1 after Michael Soong, then Hugo Valente and finally Fredy Barth had session stopping incidents. Barth's crash was so bad that Weichers Sport withdrew from the rest of the event.

Muller took Pole Position in his Cruze by a full second from Montiero in the Honda Civic. Tarquini and Huff lined up 3rd and 4th for row two whilst Michelisz and MacDowall took 5th and 6th to complete row three. Row Four was held by Chilton and Nash with James Thompson putting the LADA 9th and Tom Coronel qualifying 10th and taking Pole for race two.

Oriola didnt make it into Q2 after losing out in Q1 due to the incidents on track. Tom Boardman had a fantastic run in Q1 and would line up 12th behind Huff's Munnich Motorsport team-mate Marc Basseng for both races.

In race one Muller led from Pole to take a lead he would never lose. Monteiro held 2nd but would go on to spend the race defending from Huff's SEAT and Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport Civic. The first lap would be completed by the field without incident however on lap 2 that would change.

Oriola had shown in free practice and qualifying that he had very good speed but his impatience would boil over. On lap 2 he tried a move on the inside of Tom Chilton at Maternity corner and instead made contact with the Cruze, putting Chilton out of the race. This would not be the only incident the spaniard would be involved in...

Oriola would later be passed by Basseng who was showing that he wasnt intimidated by the circuits legendary reputation and was on full attack until he passed Oriola on lap six.

Muller would go on to win from Monteiro and Huff who joined the frenchman on the podium. Michelisz, MacDowall and Nash would finish 4th, 5th and 6th and for Nash, this secured the Yokohama Independents Trophy. Basseng, Oriola, D'Aste and Boardman rounded out the top ten with Coronel finishing 11th.

Race Two however was another matter...

At the first start of race two, Coronel led away from Thompson whilst Huff made his way from seventh on the grid to third. Michelisz however was tapped from behind into what would lead to a race stopping incident. After the cars were cleared, Boardman, Bennani, Valente, Calko, Kozlovskiy and O'Young would not take the restart.

The 2nd start took place behind the safety car where Coronel again led away from Thompson. Huff held station in third whilst further behind Muller and Montiero made contact into San Francisco corner. Muller continued whilst Montiero retired to the pits.

On lap 4, Thompson had to pull off a massive defensive move to hold off the flying Chevrolets of Chilton and Nash and managed to keep 2nd as Nash ran into Chilton. However on lap 5 Chilton would slow with engine problems after Maternity and this would cause another stoppage.

Eurosport Asia Trophy driver Eurico de Jesus hit Chilton in his normally aspirated Honda Accord causing the track to be partially blocked. But on the next lap, as many cars slowed realising the danger, Felipe De Souza in a China Dragon Racing N/A Cruze hit Muller at high speed in the rear whilst the Engstler BMW of Jo Merszei hit the Nika Racing Chevrolet of Taniguchi.

30 minutes later and the race re-started with Huff passing Thompson at Mandarin whilst Nash passed the LADA at Lisboa to drop Thommo to 4th. The LADA simply didn't have the pace to hold off the Chevrolets and Oriola was next to pounce...

Remember Oriola's move on Chilton in race one? Well he tried it again at Maternity on Thompson and made contact again with the LADA hitting the wall. What looked a promising race for the englishman ended there.

Huff went on a charge after Coronel and passed the Dutch BMW driver to take the lead whilst Oriola passed Coronel for 2nd on the final lap. Huffy went on to take his 6th win in the WTCC, tieing him with Eduardo Mortara for the most amount of wins on the streets of Macau. Behind Huff, Oriola and Coronel completed the podium with Nash, MacDowall and Muller 4th, 5th and 6th. Completing the top ten behind them were Basseng, Engstler, Tarquini (who started from the pitlane) and Henry Ho, competing in an N/A BMW.

After the races, Oriola would be penalised by 30 seconds for his race one incident with Chilton and reprimanded for his race two incident with Thompson.

Here's a hint Pepe... You cant pass at Maternity!!!

So in the end, Tarquini secured 2nd place behind Muller from James Nash who took 3rd in the overall title race.

And so the 2013 FIA WTCC season ends. Now the work begins on the 2014 season which sees bigger, faster, more aerodynamic cars from newcomers Citroen joining Honda, LADA and RML built Chevrolets.

What has been confirmed so far is that Campos Racing will field a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze for Hugo Valente whilst Tom Chilton will drive a 2014 Cruze but we are waiting for confirmation of what team. Bamboo has purchased 2 Cruzes whilst RML will take a year out, due to return in 2015.

Sebastian Loeb joins Muller at Citroen whilst Rob Huff joins Thompson and Kozlovskiy at what will be a 3 car LADA team. Honda confirmed cars for Tarquini and Montiero whilst Michelisz and Bennani will recieve customer support.

Also, 2014 will see the current crop of S2000 cars that will be known as TC2 cars still eligible but over 1 kilometre, they will be 1.5 seconds slower. So far the Engstler BMW team are expected to compete in TC2 whilst Campos have said they will run cars and Munnich Motorsport will make a partial programme.

Well, if you ask me, next year looks rosy. So enjoy the run to Christmas, make sure the tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped and the cupboards are stocked.

Meanwhile I'll keep you updated with all the tintop news.



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