WTCC 2015: Lopez And Norbi dominate in Hungary…

The 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship moved on to the Hungaroring in Hungary for the third weekend of action and the fans were treated to a win from their home hero…

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Heres how it panned out…

QUALIFYING…

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Yvan Muller secured pole position for the opening World Touring Car Championship race in Hungary, beating Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente and championship leader Jose Maria Lopez for a first pole of the 2015 season.

Muller had gone into the session expecting to fight with Citroen team-mate Lopez for pole, but in truth he was forced to push harder than he might have expected to after an impressive lap from Valente, with the Frenchman rewarded for his efforts by the retention of his second place on the grid having earlier been handed a grid penalty.

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There was a significant scalp in the opening part of qualifying as Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini – who had been Lopez’s closest challenger during the two earlier practice sessions – wrecked the front end of his Honda Civic after running wide onto the Astroturf on the exit of Turn 3 and drifting head-on into the barrier on the inside of the track.

After a short delay to remove the Italian’s stricken car, James Thompson was another big name to miss out on the second session, with a mistake at the end of his flying lap cancelling out the improvements he had made in the first two sectors. The Briton ended the session in 14th, with John Filippi in front of him and Gregoire Demoustier, Mikhail Kozlovskiy and Tarquini all eliminated.

Signs had started to appear that the tide was turning away from Lopez – who had been dominant  in the morning’s two wet practice sessions – and towards Muller, and the Frenchman continued that trend with his opening lap in Q2, with a 1:49.459s pipping López by a quarter of a second.

A good lap from Rob Huff at the halfway stage of the session put him in fifth and in with a shot of making Q3, but he missed the cutoff to return to the track in time to register a second lap and will start the first race from sixth.

It was a stunning final sector from Valente – who along with Tom Coronel had taken to the track out of sync from the majority of the remaining runners – that first pushed Huff down the order, with the Frenchman’s effort enough for a place in the final shootout session.

Lopez eventually topped the session from Muller, while a late improvement from Sebastien Loeb gave him third place and squeezed Tiago Monteiro out of the final session, with Valente sandwiched by Loeb and the fourth Citroen of Ma Qing Hua.

Ma had been due to be the first man to take to the track at the start of Q3, but having missed his window to do so it was Valente who first set a time.

Three great sectors from the Chevrolet Cruze driver gave him a 1:49.081s which was enough for him to see off Loeb – who had run wide at the start of his flying lap – and gave him a feint chance of the fastest time.

Those aspirations were quickly extinguished however as Muller eclipsed his lap by 0.053s, and with Lopez making two uncharacteristic mistakes on his lap, the Frenchman sealed his first pole, in so doing becoming the first man to beat Lopez in a Saturday session this year.

Second for Valente still marked a best qualifying result in the WTCC, although both he and team-mate Filippi were handed five-place penalties having both improved their times in first practice under yellow flags.

But that decision was later overturned by the stewards, with Valente set to start alongside Muller on the front row.

With Lopez’s lap good enough only for third, Citroen nevertheless have four drivers in the first five places on the grid, with Loeb and Ma lining up ahead of Monteiro and Huff.

Tom Coronel will start eighth ahead of team-mate Tom Chilton, while tenth place for home favourite Norbert Michelisz means the Hungarian will start tomorrow’s second race from pole.

RACE ONE…

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Jose Maria Lopez claimed a dominant win in the first World Touring Car Championship race at the Hungaroring, heading home Citroen team-mate Yvan Muller and the Campos Racing Chevrolet of Hugo Valente.

With a second formation lap required after an aborted start, it was Lopez who sliced his way between Valente and polesitter Muller on the run down to Turn 1 as the race started, and after fending off the latter through Turn 2, Lopez gradually eked out his lead to win by a comfortable 3.958s.

Muller had looked to cover Valente off the line, but with his French compatriot slipping back in the opening metres he left a gap which Lopez took advantage of to stuff his Citroen C-Elysee down the inside into Turn 1.

A slow getaway from Valente had initially moved Ma Qing Hua and Sebastien Loeb into third and fourth, but the pair collided on the exit of Turn 1, pushing Loeb down the order and allowing Valente back into third.

The Campos Racing driver tried his utmost to stay with the leading duo in the opening laps, but soon began to slip back as Lopez and Muller matched each other at the front.

By lap seven Lopez had build a margin of two seconds over his teammate, and doubled that by the end of the race to claim a third victory of the season ahead of Muller.

The Frenchman was investigated after the end of the second race, however, having allegedly drawn up to the wrong starting grid spot after the initial warm up lap, which is believed to be the cause of the aborted start.

With overtaking difficult to perfect on the tight circuit, Valented ended up winning the battle for third despite the attentions of Ma and Tiago Monteiro, who had overtaken Loeb at the start of the second lap. The Portuguese had looked the fastest of the three but was unable to find a way past the Citroen of Ma and had to settle for fifth.

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Loeb ended up a lonely sixth, ahead of Tom Chilton and race two polesitter Norbert Michelisz. Rob Huff hung on to ninth in his LADA Vesta, with Tom Coronel claiming the final point ahead of Gabriele Tarquini, who had advanced from the back of the grid after a qualifying crash.

RACE TWO…

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Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz scored a popular home victory in the second World Touring Car Championship race in Hungary ahead of the ROAL Motorsport pairing of Tom Coronel and Tom Chilton.

Michelisz dominated proceedings having started on pole and romped to a fourth WTCC win – which was also the first non-Citroen victory of the season – 7.103s ahead of Coronel at the flag, with Chilton a further two seconds down on his team-mate.

The Hungarian held his advantage off the line at the start of the race to lead into Turn 1, with Coronel passing Chilton on the run into the corner.

Things weren’t quite as clean further back in the pack, however, as a moment from Sebastien Loeb forced his Citroen team-mate Ma Qing Hua to take evasive action, who tapped the rear of Rob Huff’s LADA Vesta on the exit of the corner, pitching the Briton sideways and breaking his rear suspension.

Michelisz quickly established a lead at the front of the field, with his advantage up to 3.6s at the end of the fourth lap, as a train grew behind second-placed Coronel, with Chilton heading the Honda of Tiago Monteiro and the Citroen trio of Loeb, race one victor Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller.

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Coronel was eventually able to pull clear of his team-mate, but had to settle for second with Michelisz well up the road, the Hungarian securing a second home win in the championship to the delight of a noisy crowd.

Chilton was forced to stay alert in third until the end of the race, but was still relatively comfortable at the flag ahead of Monteiro, Loeb, Lopez and Muller.

Hugo Valente was five seconds further back in eighth, ahead of Ma who had recovered after his earlier contact. Gregoire Demoustier completed the top ten, the Belgian scoring a second point of the season.

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The WTCC now heads to the awe-inspiring Nurburgring circuit in Germany as the TC1 Competitors take on the challenge of the full Nürburgring Nordschleife layout. However there two changes to the driver lineup for that event.

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First, Nürburgring Nordschleife expert Sabine Schmitz will join Stefano D’Aste at Muennich Motorsport in their second TC1 Chevrolet Cruze in a one appearence in the WTCC.

Secondly, James Thompson has parted company with the LADA squad, for reasons as yet unclear. His place is taken in the team by former WTCC LADA driver Jaap Van Lagen.

All the best

Phil!

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