Yvan Muller and Rob Huff - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Muller leads Huff across the line to win the first race of the season - Photo Credit: fiawtcc.com

Yvan Muller got his bid for a third straight World Touring Car Championship off to a flying start with victory in the opening race of the season at Monza.

Gabriele Tarquini had taken a shock pole position in his SEAT yesterday, and managed to keep Chevrolet driver Muller at bay at the start of the race. Muller's teammates Rob Huff and Alain Menu meanwhile were fighting over third place, but the pair made contact at the first of the Lesmo corners on the opening lap, which put both sideways and into the gravel. Menu fell down the order, while Huff also lost a couple of places to Chevrolet Sweden's Rickard Rydell and ROAL BMW driver Tom Coronel.

At the end of the opening lap Muller dived down the inside of Tarquini into the Parabolica, but then overshot the first chicane. Although he had led into the corner the Frenchman opted to avoid any potential doubt by easing off to let Tarquini back through into the lead.

Muller soon regained the lead, just before the safety car came out after debutant Isaac Tutumlu had his BMW come to a stop on the straight leading down to Ascari. He had left oil down at the Lesmos, which caught out Menu, who took another trip through the gravel there.

After the restart Huff, who had already regained fourth place from Coronel, tried to take third from Rydell but overshot the first chicane. Rydell had dropped a long way back and was under pressure from Coronel so Huff couldn't initially give the place back, but they did manage to swap positions down into Ascari.

Huff managed to get the job done on Rydell on the following lap, and two laps later he had passed Tarquini at the Parabolica for second place. He closed rapidly on Muller over the closing laps, crossing the line 0.446 seconds behind his teammate. Tarquini kept Rydell at bay to take a podium on the debut for the SEAT turbo engine, with Coronel following in fifth place.

Tarquini's teammate Aleksei Dudukalo was ahead of Coronel and the leading Yokohama Trophy runner at one stage, and was set to improve considerably upon his best WTCC finish. However, after dropping back behind Coronel and Pepe Oriola, his car came to a halt.

This allowed Oriola to take his first victory in the class as well as a best ever overall result of sixth, finishing just ahead of a recovering Menu. Debutant Alex MacDowall held off the BMWs of Norbert Michelisz and another rookie Alberto Cerqui to take eighth place and second in the Yokohama Trophy.

Tom Chilton ran as high as 11th on the WTCC debut for himself, Team Aon and their Global Ford Focus, though he slipped two places by the finish. Teammate James Nash sustained damage in a first corner tangle on the first lap that also involved Stefano D'Aste, Franz Engstler and Tiago Monteiro. Another debutant Andrea Barlesi had his race come to an end when he and Mehdi Bennani found the gravel trap at the Parabolica after a coming together.

Pos Driver Team Car Time/Gap
1 Yvan Muller Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 12 laps in 26:01.705
2 Robert Huff Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 0.446
3 Gabriele Tarquini Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 2.305
4 Rickard Rydell Chevrolet Sweden Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 2.745
5 Tom Coronel ROAL BMW 320 TC 3.796
6 Pepe Oriola Tuenti SEAT Leon WTCC 6.111
7 Alain Menu Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 6.326
8 Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 8.287
9 Norbert Michelisz Zengo BMW 320 TC 8.431
10 Alberto Cerqui ROAL BMW 320 TC 9.257
11 Stefano D’Aste Wiechers BMW 320 TC 9.465
12 Franz Engstler Engstler BMW 320 TC 12.082
13 Tom Chilton Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC 12.668
14 Pasquale Di Sabatino Bamboo Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T 15.886
15 Charles Ng Engstler BMW 320 TC 48.135
16 James Nash Aon Ford Focus S2000 TC 56.503
17 Gabor Weber Zengo BMW 320 TC 1 LAP
18 Aleksei Dudukalo Lukoil SEAT Leon WTCC 2 LAPS
Not Classified
Isaac Tutumlu Proteam BMW 320 TC 2 laps
Andrea Barlesi Sunred SEAT Leon TDi 1 lap
Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW 320 TC 1 lap
Tiago Monteiro Tuenti SEAT Leon TDi 0 laps