Tom Chilton beat Sébastien Loeb Racing team-mate Mehdi Bennani to victory in the opening World Touring Car Championship race in Qatar, as Volvo’s Thed Björk extended his championship lead.
Chilton started the reverse-grid race from fifth on the grid but a strong start saw the Brit jump up to third by the first sequence of turns, which then became second when he got past RC Motorsport’s reverse race pole-sitter Kevin Gleason on lap three.
Bennani had already passed the LADA driver on the second lap, and the Moroccan had opened up a 1.6-second lead by the end of lap three, with Chilton in hot pursuit.
Chilton slashed the deficit to Bennani and by lap eight the duo were nose-to-tail for the lead. A thrilling battle then followed, with the two Citroëns duelling side-by-side with some contact before Chilton emerged as the leader.
He then held on to the lead for the next three laps to secure his third outright victory of the season, and crucially nudge into a 2.5 point lead in the WTCC Trophy standings for independents heading into the final race of the year.
Bennani had to settle for second, whilst Gleason secured his best-ever result in third and the first-ever podium finish for an American racer in the WTCC.
Sébastien Loeb Racing’s John Filippi equalled his best-ever finish in fourth, perhaps aided by the fact that Volvo’s Björk was immediately behind him in fifth and unwilling to take risks in the battle for the overall title.
Fifth for Björk means the Swede has a 16.5 point advantage over Honda rival Norbert Michelisz heading into the final race of the season, after the Hungarian was able to make little progress from his 11th place grid position.
WTCC returnee Yvan Muller claimed sixth, guarding Björk from further attack, ahead of Münnich Motorsport’s Rob Huff in seventh, who despite looking aggressive was unable to find a way past Muller’s Polestar Volvo.
Nicky Catsburg brought his Volvo home in eighth, guarding against Michelisz, who had to settle for ninth. Michelisz had earlier allowed Honda team-mate Esteban Guerrieri to pass briefly in order to try to take the attack to Catsburg, but no such move materialised and the duo later switched back.
Guerrieri completed the top ten, unable to assist Michelisz’s title challenge.
ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel just missed out on the points in 11th, finishing as the leading Chevrolet driver after Campos Racing’s Kris Richard, who had started in third, got a poor start and dropped to 12th by the end of the opening lap.
The Main Race takes place at 22:35 local time (19:35 GMT, 20:35 CET).
|1||3||T||Tom CHILTON||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||10||10 LAPS||2:02.828||5|
|2||25||T||Mehdi BENNANI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||10||2.175||2:02.496||4|
|3||24||T||Kevin GLEASON||RC Motorsport||LADA Vesta WTCC||10||6.178||2:04.159||1|
|4||27||T||John FILIPPI||Sébastien Loeb Racing||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||10||7.054||2:04.062||2|
|5||62||Thed BJÖRK||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo S60 Polestar||10||7.571||2:04.154||7|
|6||64||Yvan MULLER||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo S60 Polestar||10||7.945||2:03.730||6|
|7||12||T||Rob HUFF||ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport||Citroën C-Elysée WTCC||10||8.577||2:04.196||8|
|8||63||Nicky CATSBURG||Polestar Cyan Racing||Volvo S60 Polestar||10||9.248||2:04.114||9|
|9||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||10||9.537||2:03.976||11|
|10||86||T||Esteban GUERRIERI||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||10||10.304||2:04.016||10|
|11||9||T||Tom CORONEL||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||10||12.587||2:03.843||12|
|12||11||T||Kris RICHARD||Campos Racing||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||10||12.995||2:03.893||3|
|13||68||T||Yann EHRLACHER||RC Motorsport||LADA Vesta WTCC||10||13.857||2:03.992||14|
|14||34||Ryo MICHIGAMI||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC||10||14.924||2:04.036||13|
|15||99||T||Dániel NAGY||Zengő Motorsport Kft||Honda Civic WTCC||10||22.05||2:05.126||16|
|16||66||T||Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ||Zengő Motorsport Kft||Honda Civic WTCC||10||27.132||2:05.250||15|