Chevrolet continued their unbeaten start to the 2012 World Touring Car Championship as Yvan Muller and Alain Menu secured the victories during rounds three and four of the season at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia.
The double win, plus the double points score for Rob Huff has enabled the reigning Champions to extend their advantage in both the drivers’ and manufacturers Championship ahead of the trip to Marrakech in two weeks time.
“It’s a very good start of the season, with four wins out of four races, and some crucial points for the Manufacturers’ championship,” said Eric Neve, Chevrolet Racing Manager. “That is excellent news because as we have seen today, competition this season is much tougher. So, getting off to a good start is very important.”
Round three saw Muller set a small piece of WTCC history – as he became the first driver to win the opening three races of the Championship. He opened up the advantage during the opening laps and thus was able to back off slightly towards the end to ensure that he had some life left in his tyres.
The Frenchman could only finish eighth in the second race of the weekend after going the wrong way on the set up of his Cruze as well as a moment towards the end of the race, where he slipped off the circuit.
“Not a bad weekend at all,” commented the reigning Champion. “Race 1 was perfect, thanks to the wonderful job done by the team and the excellent balance of the car. I had a good start and tried to build a gap in the initial laps. As there was some fighting for position behind me, I pulled away easily and my only concern was not to stress the tires.
“We implemented some changes in the set-up for Race 2 and I think they weren’t good. I was running behind Rob when slid off track and lost one position, but I salvaged some good points for the championship.”
Menu had a tougher task on his hands as he lined up ninth after qualifying. He was able to work his way up the order in the opening race to finish fifth. Round four saw the Swiss driver secure his first win of the 2012 campaign after a fraught and frantic race, which saw Menu have to work his way past the BMW’s of Engstler and D’Aste before defending from Coronel in the closing stages having run off the circuit due to oil.
“I am very happy with my results especially after a difficult qualifying,” explains Menu. “Race 1 was good and I was very careful not to destroy the tires, finishing fifth after gaining four positions compared with my grid position.
“I made a couple of nice overtakes and joined Rob after a while, but did not really have an opportunity to attack him. Race 2 was exciting and closely-fought, really one of my nicest wins. I knew that at the start the BMWs would be ahead, but I passed Engstler in the early stages and caught up with D’Aste.
“My first attack on him was a bit optimistic; I touched him and gave him back the position. A few corners later, I took the lead. Probably I was a little bit too conservative, trying to preserve the tires. After ending up off-track in a slippery portion of the circuit, Coronel and the others caught up with me. I had a good fight with Tom and a contact with him sent me on the grass. It was a close escape, but I managed to stay ahead until the flag. It was about time I had some luck on my side!”
2011 runner up Huff had a quiet weekend as he secured a brace of top six finishes to bring home some valuable Championship points. He leaves Valencia as the lowest placed works Chevrolet driver and the only one not to have won a race in the 2012 campaign to date.
“Not the most exciting weekend for me, but I go away with some important championship points. Race 1 was pretty uneventful and 4th was a good result,” added Huff. “This is a track where it is very difficult to overtake, especially when it’s warm. I started well and passed Oriola and caught up with Coronel and Tarquini, but I couldn’t pass them. At the same time, I had to watch my back as Alain was right behind.
“In Race 2, the car performed better after some set-up changes, I kept pace with the cars in front of me but was never in a position to attack them. In the final laps, I was sort of watching the show ahead, and ready to take advantage of the situation, but despite the slippery track and the fights, everybody kept his position, so 6th was the best I could do.”