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).
|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|