Yvan Muller admitted there was ‘no point’ in defending from Jean-Karl Vernay in the opening FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) race in Macau, due to the speed advantage carried by the Audi over the Hyundai.
Muller made a strong start to move from third into the lead when the lights went out, getting past pole-sitter Rob Huff on the approach to Mandarin bend.
But unfortunately for Muller, Vernay had followed him through past Huff and was on his tail for the opening lap.
A one-lap safety car period meant Vernay remained close to Muller’s bumper at the start of lap three, and Vernay was able to pass the four-time WTCC champion for the lead, and ultimately victory, on the high-speed section of the circuit.
“My start was very good,” said Muller. “I could see on the warm-up lap Rob did a bad start, so I knew there was a chance there.
“I didn’t expect to do a better start than Rob, but fortunately I could be on the inside of him at Turn 1. Then fortunately Jean-Karl was behind, and he gave me some speed to stay at the front…
“After the safety car there was no point; I couldn’t keep Jean-Karl behind and I had two options: I could shut the door, but it was a big risk to lose two or three places, so I prefer to let him past and secure my second place.
“I still pushed behind him to try to put on pressure, but he was too good.”
By finishing in second Muller has gained slightly on series leader Gabriele Tarquini, with the gap between the two experienced drivers now standing at 33 points before Sunday’s final two races of the season.