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Yvan Muller on top at half way stage

The 2012 World Touring Car Championship has once again seen the RML run Chevrolet team dominating the Championship with 11 wins out of 14 and four race one Pole Positions out of seven.

Their dominance saw them win the opening first six races, Yvan Muller securing four wins with Alain Menu two victories. Rob Huff secured his first win of the season in round eight to make it seven from eight for Chevrolet and wins in Hungary, Austria and Portugal mean that Chevrolet has 11 wins from 14 races.

Muller took three wins on the bounce at the start of the season – and a place in history as the first driver to win the opening three races of a WTCC campaign.  Muller has also been victorious in Marrakech, Hungary and Portugal.

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Having finished inside the top ten in all 14 races so far this season, Muller has a 20 point Championship advantage over his nearest rival, fellow Chevrolet driver Rob Huff.

Huff has seen consistency keep him in touch at the top of the points – despite only having two wins in 2012, and the first win not coming until round 8 in Slovakia, the British driver brought the #2 Cruze home inside the points solidly.

The first race in Slovakia saw Huff retire for the first time since Marrakech in 2010 – since then, two wins and three other podium finishes.

Completing the Championship top three is the third Chevrolet of Alain Menu. After a reasonable start to the season, it appeared that Menu would be Muller’s closest challenger in the Championship but two retirements in Slovakia and Austria has put the Swiss driver on the back foot.

In the 14 races run to date, Menu has three victories and six other podiums. He secured the honours in Valencia and Marrakech before signing off the European leg of the Championship with victory in Portimao, under the guise of Michel Vaillant. Menu has a 39 point gap to make up to Muller.

Leading the way in the battle for fourth and best of the non Chevrolets is Tom Coronel in the ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC. Coronel has finished all 14 races to date in 2012 but is yet to secure a victory in 2012. His best result is second at Valencia.

He has failed to score points in two races this season – in Slovakia and Hungary and this has left him just two points ahead of double Pole Position sitter and Slovakia ring winner Gabriele Tarquini.

The 2009 Champion has had a tough campaign to date with three retirements and three finishes outside the top 10. He has also secured four other podiums to keep himself in touch with Coronel in the battle for fourth.

The other non Independent SEAT is Tiago Monteiro is the SEAT Tuenti Racing Team and the former Formula 1 driver has found the going tough as he has been laboured with the under powered SunRed engine compared to the SEAT Sport engine in the other cars.

Joining the WTCC field in 2012 is Team AON with their Ford Focuses and the last two British Touring Car Championship Independent Champions. Both Tom Chilton and James Nash are new to the series and it has been Nash who has shown the better speed despite some bad luck along the way.

Nash has taken the teams’ best result (sixth in Marrakech), been the first Ford driver to lead a WTCC race (Marrakech), start a race on Pole Position (Marrakech) as well as their best qualifying result to date (P4 in Slovakia). On the flip side, Nash has either retired or not started six races this season.

It was Chilton who took the first points finish for the team as he brought home the #23 Focus seventh in the first race at Marrakech. The 2010 BTCC Independents’ Champion has the better finishing record but only two top ten finishes to show.

The battle for Independent honours has seen a close three way battle between Spanish teenager Pepe Oriola, Norbert Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport BMW 320TC and Stefano D’Aste in the Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC – yet it is Michelisz who is ahead in the overall drivers’ Championship, by two points from Oriola.

Oriola leads the way for the SEAT Tuenti Racing Team outfit having taken five class victories and six top three finishes, as well as an outright podium finish in the final European race at Portimao.

Michelisz finds himself in contention for the Yokohama Independents crown despite only finishing top Independent twice. Seven other top three finishes in class means that the Hungarian is within striking distance of Oriola.

Of his two class victories, his first one of the season coincided with his best result of the season – a home victory in the reverse grid race in Hungary. His second Yokohama Independents victory came in Portugal, after a top three qualifying result he brought the #5 BMW 320TC home fourth.

Third in the Yokohama Independents’ is Salzburgring winner Stefano D’Aste. The Italian has dropped back from the leading duo after a tough weekend in Portugal.

His early season form saw him secure three Yokohama Independents victories – all race two, after Oriola secured the honours in the opening race. After a retirement in Slovakia, D’Aste’s form has slumped – and his win in Austria is the only standout result from the last three weekends.

Fourth leaving Europe is Franz Engstler. The experienced German is yet to secure a win in the Yokohama Independents’  but consistency in the class is keeping him with an outside chance of securing the crown, while WTCC debutants Alex MacDowall (bamboo engineering) and Alberto Cerqui (ROAL Motorsport) have an outside chance of securing the crown in Macau.

MacDowall has taken a single class victory with a top six finish in Austria while Cerqui has secured the points over the season without securing a Yokohama Independents’ victory.

The other drivers to have secured an Independents victory are Alexey Dudukalo (Slovakia ring) and Mehdi Bennani (Hungary) – Bennani finds himself seventh overall while Dudukalo is ninth in the Independents.

Ten races left to decide the 2012 World Touring Car Champion and the season gets underway for the second half of the season in Curitiba, Brazil over the 21/22 July, before heading to Somona in the USA over the 22/23 September.

After the Americas tour, the series heads to Asia for the final three weekends, starting with a trip to Suzuka over the 20/21 October before moving to Shanghai for the penultimate round on the 3rd/4th November. The season finishes at Macau over the 16/17/18 November, and for the Yokohama Independent runners, double points are awarded at Macau.

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