LADA’s Gabriele Tarquini took a dominant victory in the opening World Touring Car Championship race under the floodlights in Qatar, with Brits Tom Chilton and Rob Huff completing the podium.
Chilton led the field away from the standing start on lap one, and initially successfully defended from the charging Italian behind.
The race lasted barely half a lap before the safety car was called on, however, as Honda’s Tiago Monteiro collected the Citroën of José María López at Turn 6, resulting in damage to both the left and right-rear suspension of his Honda.
As Monteiro speared across the front of López’s battle-scarred but otherwise intact C-Elysée, he made contact with one of the circuit tyre stacks and also the LADA of Hugo Valente, breaking the Honda Civic.
The safety car was out for two laps, before officials decided to suspend the race whilst Monteiro’s car was recovered, the damage to both of the rear wheels making it difficult to move.
When the race resumed over fifteen minutes later, Tarquini immediately pounced on Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Chilton, passing him into Turn 1 to take the lead.
Thereafter Tarquini was unchallenged, opening up an over-seven second lead at one stage. For his part, Chilton came under heavy pressure from Huff, but the former champion was unable to find a way past and had to settle for third.
Citroën’s Yvan Muller took fourth, staying out of trouble in the chaotic early laps to make good on his grid position. The result, and Monteiro’s retirement, confirms the Frenchman as the championship runner-up in 2016.
The second works’ Honda of Norbert Michelisz was fifth, ahead of the Polestar Cyan Racing duo of Thed Björk and Robert Dahlgren in sixth and seventh respectively, the latter having lost three places down the order on the first lap after the restart.
The second LADA of Nicky Catsburg took eighth, whilst a recovering López took ninth. The duo had early made contact with each other on lap one when Mehdi Bennani knocked Catsburg into the champion, for which he earned a drive-through penalty.
Münnich Motorsport’s James Thompson completed the top ten, taking his first points finish since August.
Zengő Motorsport’s Dániel Nagy just missed out on his first-ever points in the championship and was 11th, having run in ninth position at the restart.
ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel made little progress from his grids position and finished in 12th, ahead of the second Zengő Motorsport Honda of Ferenc Fucza in 13th.
Sébastien Loeb Racing duo Grégoire Demoustier and Bennani completed the finishers, the latter just two seconds behind his team-mate despite serving a drive-through penalty.
Valente’s LADA mechanics managed to repair his car during the race, allowing him to return to the circuit to complete a couple of reconnaissance laps ahead of the Main Race.
|1||2||Gabriele TARQUINI||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||14||14 LAPS||2:01.760||2|
|2||3||T||Tom CHILTON||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||14||5.321||2:03.074||1|
|3||12||Rob HUFF||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||14||5.930||2:03.049||5|
|4||68||Yvan MULLER||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||14||7.608||2:03.119||7|
|5||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||14||9.070||2:03.071||6|
|6||62||Thed BJÖRK||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo S60 WTCC||14||9.675||2:02.999||9|
|7||63||Robert DAHLGREN||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo S60 WTCC||14||10.255||2:02.983||3|
|8||10||Nicky CATSBURG||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||14||10.871||2:03.060||11|
|9||37||José María LÓPEZ||Citroën Total WTCC||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||14||11.591||2:03.334||8|
|10||15||T||James THOMPSON||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||14||15.375||2:03.123||14|
|11||99||T||Dániel NAGY||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||14||16.274||2:03.490||17|
|12||9||T||Tom CORONEL||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||14||16.721||2:03.986||13|
|13||55||T||Ferenc FICZA||Zengő Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||14||17.227||2:03.705||16|
|14||27||T||John FILIPPI||Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||14||21.173||2:04.370||15|
|15||11||T||Grégoire DEMOUSTIER||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||14||28.724||2:04.368||18|
|16||25||T||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||14||30.548||2:02.360||10|
|NC||7||Hugo VALENTE||LADA Sport Rosneft||LADA Vesta WTCC||4||10 Lp.||2:02.464||12|
|R||18||Tiago MONTEIRO||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||0||–||N/A||4|