Yvan Muller has declared himself pleased following a near-perfect start to his World Touring Car Championship title defence at Monza.
The Frenchman won both races at the legendary Italian circuit, the second of those victories coming despite being rammed into a spin by Chevrolet teammate Rob Huff during the race. For Muller it was a great way to begin his season, particularly considering his slow start to the 2011 campaign.
“The season couldn't have started in a better way and I am very happy with the results,” said the three-time world champion. “There is always a little bit of extra pressure ahead of a season opener but with age, you learn to cope with it.
“The first laps of Race 1 were hot. I managed to pass Tarquini but then I had to go straight at the first chicane. Despite the fact I was leading and therefore didn't gain any position, I preferred to let Gabriele past not to risk any penalty. Later, I retook the lead and everything went smoothly except for some oil on the track and some vibrations in the closing laps.
“Race 2 was very tough, and when I was hit at the back by Rob in lap 2 and sent into a complete spin, I thought it was the end of it. Luckily, I did not lose positions. It was an unexpected win.”
Huff followed Muller home for second place in the first encounter, and completed a team 1-2-3 in the third. Although he leaves Monza second in the championship, he is already 18 points behind Muller.
“It's a good start of the season, with some good points,” said Huff. “Now, we need to build on this and go forward.
“Race 1 was pretty crazy in the initial laps and you could feel that everyone was eager to race after four months of inactivity. After the contact with Alain, I was sixth but I regained positions and finished second. It was difficult to overtake Rydell as he was fast and pushing hard.
“In Race 2, there was an incident between Yvan and Gabriele in the chicane; I think both Tarquini and I braked too late, but the good thing is that I stayed on the track.”
Alain Menu could only finish seventh in the first race after two trips through the gravel at the Lesmos, the first after contact with Huff. In Race 2 he finished close behind winner Muller. He lies third in the points, 28 behind Muller and 10 behind Huff.
“I am happy with my driving and the car performance, slightly less with the results,” he explained.
“Race 1 was clearly not very successful for me. We were all very close at the beginning and there was contact with Rob twice. I ran into the gravel at Lesmo 2 but fortunately rejoined the race. The car did not performing very well after that and I had another contact with Cerqui, after which, something got bent in the front.
“In Race 2, there was contact with Yvan in lap 1, then this incident in lap 2. Luckily, I was on the left line and avoided trouble. I even thought this was going to be my opportunity, but Yvan recovered extremely well. I closed in on him in the last lap, but he never makes mistakes. I was happy to finish second.”
After the disappointment of missing out on pole position on Saturday, Chevrolet motorsport boss Eric Neve was pleased with the way the weekend turned out. He did however acknowledge that his drivers had probably pushed the limits when fighting with each other on track.
“A very good start of the season with a 1-2 and a 1-2-3, which means nearly maximum points,” said Neve. “It was a lively weekend, to say the least and the drivers may have showed too much fighting spirit, but we'll debrief and sort it out. What matters is that everything went well and we achieved a very strong team result.”