Chevrolet celebrated its 100th birthday weekend in perfect style as the RML run cars secured both the victories in the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s maiden visit to mainland China, at the Tianma circuit.
The team lined up with a front row lock out ahead of the opening race of the day, with Alain Menu and Rob Huff first and second on the grid and Yvan Muller lined up on the fourth row in seventh.
The short, tight and twisty layout of the Tianma circuit played host to two close fought races, which delighted the fans who had turned out for the maiden visit of the WTCC.
Alain Menu secured the first Chinese victory for the team with a controlled drive from Pole Position to secure his fifth victory of the season. The early stages of the race saw the Swiss driver drive away from the pack while Huff was busy defending from the back.
Once Huff was demoted to third by Colin Turkington, Menu was back under pressure and spent the closing laps defending from the BMW driver.
Round twenty two saw Menu starting back in eighth and he was caught up in traffic for the whole race and he finished sixth at the flag, a result which saw his Championship challenge ended.
Menu was pleased to have secured another win during the opening race, as he explains: “Another win for me, which is very good. I made a very good start in Race 1, keeping the advantage of the pole, and was very cautious in the first laps, in order not to damage the front tires. That was wise as Turkington came back very strong in the second part of the race, but I was able to hold him, I just tried to stay focused and keep my pace. Race 2 was a big fight, I got caught in-between the BMWs and there wasn’t much I could do.”
Yvan Muller arrived in China leading Huff by ten points and leaves with an extended advantage of twenty points having finished fourth in the opening race which he then backed up with his eighth victory of the season.
Having lined up fourth for round twenty two, Muller found himself second after incidents ahead of him played into his hands. Once he got ahead of Tarquini, he drove away from the rest of the field to record victory.
“What a day!” Exclaimed Muller. “After the bad qualifying session I had, I could never dream of such an outcome. This is racing as I like it and today, Louis Chevrolet’s motto, ‘Never give up”, really applied to me! Race 1 had already been good, as I managed to take fourth just behind Rob, thus limiting the damage, but Race 2 was incredible. I knew the start was going to be lively and I chose to stay behind Tarquini, knowing he would open the way, and that was the right choice. Once I passed him too, everything was quite easy.”
Rob Huff was unable to fully take advantage of his front row start in the opening race as he slipped back to third position half way through the race. This enabled him to cut the Championship advantage slightly, which he then lost in the second race after being forced into the barriers on the opening lap of the second race as he tried to pass Tarquini.
He finished third but dropped twenty points behind Muller with just the trip to Macau left in two weeks time.
Huff wasn’t pleased with how the race day went for him, and with what happened in the second race: “Obviously, not a very good result towards the championship. Everything will be decided at Macau, as anticipated, and we’ll see what happens there. Race 1 was not too bad, it’s just a pity that I could not keep Turkington behind, but I was having some vibrations on the left front tire since early in the race and didn’t want to put the tire at risk. Race 2 was very difficult, with a lot of contacts since the start, and then found myself stuck behind Tarquini; it was just a very difficult race…”