Mehdi Bennani holds off Aurélien Comte for reverse-grid win

Mehdi Bennani holds off Aurélien Comte for reverse-grid win

Mehdi Bennani
Photo: Marc de Mattia / DPPI

Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani held off a late charge from DG Sport’s Aurélien Comte to claim victory in the second World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race on the streets of Wuhan in China to become the 12th different winner of the season.

From pole on the reversed grid Bennani leapt into the lead when the lights went out, whilst Comte made a strong start to jump his Peugeot into second, passing Ma Qing Hua’s Honda before the first corner.

Ma ended up being one of the biggest losers in the first lap drama, dropping to 11th as the mid-pack battles claimed their first casualty after just a few turns when Leopard Lukoil’s Gordon Shedden, on pole for race three, was contacted and picked up damage to his front-left wheel.

In the early stages of the race Comte proved to be a bottleneck, allowing Bennani to extend a lead of over two seconds at one stage, but the Frenchman reeled in the Moroccan late in the race, and on the very last lap made a pass at the chicane.

Comte then out-braked himself at the second-to-last hairpin corner, allowing Bennani to re-take the lead and almost losing Comte second to the Comtoyou Racing Audi of Nathanaël Berthon, who ultimately had to settle for third and a maiden podium.

Campos Racing’s Pepe Oriola was fourth, having lost out to Berthon on lap 14, despite the Spaniard having taken the fight to Comte for second at one stage early in the race.

Jean-Karl Vernay was the leading WRT Audi driver in fifth, ahead of the Comtoyou Racing duo of Frédéric Vervisch and Aurélien Panis in sixth and seventh respectively.

Ma took the chequered flag in eighth, after the Chinese racer fought his way past YMR’s Thed Björk early in the race and then SLR’s Rob Huff on lap nine, although the Boutsen Ginion Racing driver hit Huff’s Volkswagen at the hairpin to make the pass, also allowing Yvan Muller’s Hyundai through.

Comtoyou Racing’s Denis Dupont and YMR’s Muller completed the top ten, with Huff missing out on the points in 11th after the incident with Ma, which is to be investigated after the race.

It once again proved to be a difficult race for the Hyundai drivers, with consequences in the drivers’ title race. Points leader Gabriele Tarquini once again retired in his BRC Racing i30, whilst Björk was taken out by the CUPRA of John Filippi, who missed his braking point and slammed into the reigning WTCC champion.

Münnich Motorsport had their worst race of the season, with Esteban Guerrieri finishing 13th after starting sixth, having lost out on the opening lap, whilst Yann Ehrlacher could only manage 15th. Timo Scheider retired to the pits early on, but re-joined the race for a reconnaissance lap.

Whilst Comte enjoyed a strong race, his DG Sport team-mate Mat’o Homola retired after one lap with a broken driveshaft on his Peugeot.

Race three pole-sitter Shedden limped back to the pits, but the damage to his Audi required a new steering rack and repairs to the power steering system ahead of the final race of the weekend.

Race three is scheduled to get underway at 17:10 local time (10:10 BST, 11:10 CEST).

Race result

POS NO DRIVER NAT ENTRANT CAR LAPS TIME BEST GD
1 25 Mehdi BENNANI Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 18 25:35.996 1:24.456 1
2 7 Aurélien COMTE DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 18 0.478 1:24.645 3
3 23 Nathanaël BERTHON Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 18 0.618 1:24.704 5
4 74 Pepe ORIOLA Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 18 5.115 1:24.707 4
5 69 Jean-Karl VERNAY Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 18 5.516 1:24.734 7
6 22 Frédéric VERVISCH Audi Sport Team Comtoyou Audi RS3 LMS 18 5.988 1:24.563 9
7 21 Aurélien PANIS Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 18 6.489 1:24.537 11
8 55 MA Qing Hua Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 18 10.229 1:24.630 2
9 20 Denis DUPONT Comtoyou Racing Audi RS3 LMS 18 11.585 1:24.596 8
10 48 Yvan MULLER YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 18 12.176 1:24.950 15
11 12 Rob HUFF Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR 18 12.482 1:24.668 13
12 31 Kevin CECCON Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 18 13.814 1:24.825 12
13 86 Esteban GUERRIERI ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 18 15.373 1:24.860 6
14 5 Norbert MICHELISZ BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 18 16.025 1:25.365 21
15 68 Yann EHRLACHER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 18 16.664 1:25.199 20
16 88 Fabrizio GIOVANARDI Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR 18 26.507 1:25.575 24
17 66 Zsolt Dávid SZABÓ Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 18 41.252 1:25.514 22
R 8 Norbert NAGY Zengő Motorsport CUPRA TCR 13 DNF 1:25.546 23
R 30 Gabriele TARQUINI BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR 11 DNF 1:25.286 16
R 9 Tom CORONEL Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 7 DNF 1:25.601 25
R 11 Thed BJÖRK YMR Hyundai i30 N TCR 7 DNF 1:25.275 14
R 27 John FILIPPI Team Oscaro by Campos Racing CUPRA TCR 3 DNF 1:25.324 17
R 42 Timo SCHEIDER ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR 3 DNF 12:40.628 18
R 70 Mat’o HOMOLA DG Sport Compétition Peugeot 308 TCR 1 DNF N/A 19
R 52 Gordon SHEDDEN Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team Audi RS3 LMS 1 DNF N/A 10
WTCR points deficit chart
Graphic: TouringCars.Net