Citroën’s José María López opened his World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) title defence in spectacular fashion, winning the first race of the season on home soil in Argentina ahead of team-mates Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb.
López led the entire race from start to finish, despite rival Muller challenging on the first lap through the first two corners. The Argentine was hardly challenged thereafter, opening up a manageable two-second lead to kick his title defence off in style.
After his initial challenge, Muller was unable to match the pace of López and settled for second, eventually finishing 3.170 seconds adrift. Loeb took third, having never looked likely to challenge his two team-mates.
Works Honda drivers Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini finished in fourth and fifth respectively after a quiet race for the pair. The duo had no pace to match the as-yet un-ballasted Citroëns, finishing more than 14 seconds adrift.
Zengő Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz was sixth, benefitting the most from other’s misdemeanours. The Hungarian had been forced to come through the pack from the back of the grid after suffering wheel damage in qualifying and not posting a time.
Michelisz was up to ninth by lap three, following Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani, who tried to pass LADAs Rob Huff for seventh. The two made contact, with Huff’s right-rear wheel damaged, allowing Michelisz to progress. Bennani was later handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, leaving him to finish down in 13th position.
Ma Qing Hua took seventh, despite having stalled on the grid and dropped to 13th on the opening lap. The Chinese driver fought back, passing Tom Chilton on lap eight.
ROAL Motorsport’s Chilton went on to finish in eighth, having been forced to drive defensively from both Bennani and Ma.
WTCC returned Stefano D’Aste finished ninth for Münnich Motorsport, with fellow returnee Rickard Rydell completing the top ten for Nika International.
On the opening lap of the race LADA’s James Thompson – who earned pole position for the reverse-grid second race – was hit by Campos Racing’s John Filippi, picking up right-rear suspension damage. Filippi was also forced out of the race with damage to the left-rear of his Chevrolet.
Campos endured a disastrous race, with Hugo Valente crashing heavily on lap five in an apparent repeat of his practice shunt on Saturday. With significant damage to the front of his Chevrolet it is unlikely the Frenchman will be able to participate in race two.
Tom Coronel suffered a turbo issue on his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet leaving him down on power and the Dutchman pitted for repairs.
Top ten result
|1||37||José María LÓPEZ||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||13||13 LAPS||1:47.702||1|
|2||68||Yvan MULLER||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||13||3.170||1:47.882||2|
|3||9||Sébastien LOEB||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||13||7.500||1:47.996||3|
|4||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||13||14.168||1:48.645||5|
|5||2||Gabriele TARQUINI||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||13||16.322||1:48.840||7|
|6||5||Y||Norbert MICHELISZ||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||13||18.470||1:48.501||17|
|7||33||MA Qing Hua||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||13||20.164||1:48.496||4|
|8||3||Y||Tom CHILTON||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||13||23.499||1:48.756||6|
|9||26||Y||Stefano D’ASTE||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||13||27.306||1:49.436||8|
|10||19||Rickard RYDELL||Nika International||Honda Civic WTCC||13||30.266||1:49.578||16|