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Bennani and Michelisz disagree over race-ending shunt

Mehdi Bennani and Norbert Michelisz blamed each other for their race-ending accident in the opening World Touring Car Championship race at Monza whilst battling for the lead.

Bennani got off to a strong start in the first WTCC race of the day at Monza, taking the lead when pole-sitter Tom Coronel got a poor start.

Michelisz then passed Bennani’s team-mate Tom Chilton for second into the first chicane on lap two, before attempting a pass into the final Parabolica turn later on in the lap.

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The Honda and Citroën made contact, pitching both men off the circuit and out of the race, Bennani with damage and Michelisz with a puncture.

Bennani was later deemed by officials to be at fault and handed a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Hungary.

After the race, Michelisz was resolute in where the blame was, pointing to the marks on his Civic that he was in front heading into the corner.

“It’s quite clear to me,” said Michelisz to TouringCars.Net. “I had the inside, I was braking early enough to make the corner easily and I think he just didn’t see me on the inside. He was turning for the corner like no one was there.

“It’s frustrating, because it was a possible race win. I was really happy with my car throughout the first race and I was able to overtake people, so from P5 [on the grid] this could have been an easy win because the car was capable of doing that.

“It was unnecessary from Mehdi to turn in. He should either defend before the corner or when he leaves the door open [not turn in]. He saw me 15 seconds before exiting Ascari, so he was aware I was behind.”

Bennani blamed Michelisz for the accident, suggesting that the Hungarian had gone for an over-opportunistic move at an unconventional passing place.

“It’s clear what happened,” said Bennani to TouringCars.Net. “I tried to brake at exactly the same time as before and he went inside me. I feel that he braked a little bit later and could not stop the car.

“It’s not an easy life with Michelisz and his fast Honda, but when you try something like this you try in the slow part of the corners, not in the Parabolica when you are coming with too much speed and fighting to stay [on the] inside.

“I was a little bit surprised. I was thinking to [let him past] and overtake him at the first chicane, and to try to follow his level, but it’s over and it’s zero points.

“You can have one thousand view about the crash, but for me I consider that we are both the losers.”

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