The 2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship saw Yvan Muller become the second driver to achieve three titles after securing the title with a third place finish in the final race at Macau.
In total, thirty eight drivers entered at least one race weekend and twenty two drivers secured an outright top ten finish – of which six drivers were in their maiden season in the WTCC.
Six drivers stood on the top step of the podium while a further seven drivers made their way to the top three, with two drivers securing their first ever podium results in the series during 2011.
Which drivers over the course of the season impressed, either with their results or their general approach to the season?
5. Tom Coronel – ROAL Motorsport – BMW 320TC
Dutchman Tom Coronel made the switch from the SUNRED team to the ROAL Motorsport for the 2011 campaign and for the first time since 2002, Coronel faced racing a Rear Wheel Drive car.
He started the season off positively – securing a podium finish in the second race at Curitiba, having led for the majority of the race before losing out to the better developed Chevrolet’s.
Consistency enabled Coronel to remain in the hunt for being the best of the rest – a result which he secured at Macau during the season finale.
His highlight of the season will have come at Suzuka as he secured his second victory in the World Touring Car Championship – having withstood the Chevrolet charge for the entire race duration. His first victory also came in Japan, back in 2008 at Okayama.
He’ll look back at a run of four no scores in five races at the start of the season for the reason he finished so far behind the Chevrolet trio, and with a smaller gap to fifth place than he’d have liked.
Championship Position: 4th, 233 Points
1 Win, 4 Podiums, 0 Pole Positions, 2 Fastest Laps.
4. Kristian Poulsen – Liqui Moly Team Engstler/Poulsen Motorsport – BMW 320TC
Poulsen finished the 2011 campaign off as a Champion, having secured the Yokohama Independents title in the first of the Macau races and for the Danish driver; it completed a remarkable two year improvement.
After the 2009 campaign, Poulsen hadn’t broken into the points – his best result was a tenth place – and his best Independent result was a third, while the 2010 season saw an improvement as he scored his first points finish – his season best was a sixth – and finished third in the Yokohama Independents.
Joining forces with the Liqui Moly Team Engstler outfit for the 2011 campaign gave Poulsen a chance to shine and he produced some strong results throughout the season, but suffered some disappointments along the way and was in the wars on occasions.
His personal highlight will have been at Monza, as he followed home the Chevrolet duo of Rob Huff and Yvan Muller to secure his first outright podium finish in the WTCC – having come out on top of a tight scrap over third position.
2012 won’t see Poulsen defending his crown – he announced after the Macau weekend that he was stepping down from the WTCC due to other commitments and that he had sold his BMW 320TC. Poulsen will be missed in the series.
Championship Position: 7th, 112 Points
0 Wins, 1 Podium, 0 Pole Positions, 0 Fastest Laps
3. Javier Villa – Proteam Racing – BMW 320TC
Spaniard Villa made the move from the Spanish MINI Challenge into the WTCC and set about finishing the season as the best placed series rookie and with a podium finish to his name.
Villa had made his name in single seater racing during the early part of his career – competing in the Formula 1 supporting GP2 category, as well as being a test driver for BMW Sauber in 2007.
For Villa, qualifying ended up being a problem and this would ultimately cost him the chance to secure better points finishes – only once did the Proteam Racing driver break into the top five.
His personal highlight from the season will have been his maiden podium finish at the Hungaroring, where he finished third, ahead of drivers like Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Gabriele Tarquini – he forced his way ahead of the 2009 Champion on the final lap.
Villa has a bright future in the WTCC – providing he learns from his qualifying problems and can solidly qualify inside the top ten.
Championship Position: 12th, 59 Points
0 Wins, 1 Podium, 0 Pole Positions, 1 Fastest Lap.
2. Yvan Muller – Chevrolet – Chevrolet Cruze
Muller proved in 2011 why he has become a triple WTCC Champion – but not after a mighty scare from his Chevrolet team-mate Rob Huff.
Victories-wise, this marked Muller’s best campaign in the WTCC and since 2001, when he secured ten victories at the wheel of the Vauxhall Astra in the British Touring Car Championship.
On track, 2011 also saw Muller starting to crack a little when the pressure was increased – over the course of the season; he got involved in intra team contacts with his team-mates, once which saw Alain Menu pitched into the barriers at Monza, with Huff at Donington Park as they climbed up the order in the second race.
Nobody can deny Muller his third Championship – one non finish at Zolder was his only non score and he never finished outside the top five in any race, his worst result of the season was a fifth place – picked up at the Hungaroring and Oschersleben.
The highlight of 2011 for Muller could be the moment where Huff and he collided at Porto – Huff got away with it but it fired Muller up for the second half of the season, where he was near on unstoppable.
Muller must be considered the favourite to secure another Championship in 2012, having been confirmed with the Chevrolet outfit for 2012, and on the back of a truly dominant season.
Championship Position: 1st, 433 Points
8 Wins, 4 Pole Positions, 19 Podiums, 8 Fastest Laps.
1. Rob Huff – Chevrolet – Chevrolet Cruze
British driver Huff had arguably his best ever campaign in 2011, a season where he drove better than ever and in any other season, would be celebrating a maiden WTCC title.
Having set the early pace – he was chasing down his team-mate from Valencia onwards and despite continuing his domination of the Macau street race, wasn’t quite able to overturn the disadvantage.
Huff kept himself in contention all the way through the season – he scored in all twenty four races and was off the podium six times all season – his worst result was a sixth place finish at Zolder and Oschersleben.
Despite all of the positives, Huff must also look back and think “what if” as a couple of incidents could have cost him the title – looking to pass Tarquini for the victory at Zolder, which ended up with him going off, a similar incident in Tianma which allowed Muller to open up a twenty point advantage with Macau left.
A personal highlight for Huff – securing his first WTCC double win at Monza, under intense pressure from behind, but his double Macau win will come close to his double Monza victory.
Huff has proved himself as a future world Champion – 2012 could be his season, if he can fend off his fellow team-mate and his determination to secure a fourth title.
Championship Position: 2nd, 430 Points
8 Wins, 4 Pole Positions, 18 Podiums, 9 Fastest Laps.