Rob Huff was on course to secure the World Touring Car Championship title during Race 1 in Macau until he sustained damage and had to retire, with Yvan Muller inheriting the race win once he survived contact from Chevrolet teammate and fellow title contender Alain Menu.
Muller took the lead at the start thanks to a quick getaway, running side-by-side with Huff down until Mandarin when he used the inside line to get ahead.
Huff, who only needed a podium finish to wrap up the title, re-passed Muller for the race lead at Lisboa after a few laps. He then had a major brush with the barriers further around the lap that damaged both left-hand corners. He slowed toward the end of the lap and pulled into the pits, as Muller regained the lead.
Menu, who has been publicly unhappy with Muller following their Shanghai contact, tried hard to get by the Frenchman, tapping him sideways as he tried to pass at the Maternity right-hander.
Muller did hold on to win though, moving back into second in the standings at the expense of Menu. Muller is 17 points away from Huff with Menu 19 behind and 25 available for winning Race 2. Menu, Muller and Huff are set to start eighth, ninth and tenth on the reverse grid.
Tiago Monteiro’s new Honda Civic was a match for the Chevrolets from start to finish and was right on Menu’s tail in the closing laps. Gabriele Tarquini finished fourth in his final weekend in the SEAT Leon before joining Honda. Darryl O’Young took a popular Yokohama Trophy victory at his ‘home’ race in fifth overall, helped by a traditional first-lap pileup at Lisboa which he just escaped from.
Mehdi Bennani found the tyre barrier on the outside, with Stefano D’Aste going into the back of him and blocking the track. Pepe Oriola was forced to retire, revealing afterwards that he broke the gearbox when he tried to select reverse. His Yokohama Trophy title rivals Norbert Michelisz and D’Aste both sustained considerable damage and had to visit the pits. Michelisz got back out on track before the end of the race but all three drivers failed to score.
Tom Coronel was sixth and the first of those that got held up on the first lap, ahead of Franz Engstler, Fredy Barth and British pairing Alex MacDowall and Tom Boardman.
Race 2, the final race of the season, is set to get underway at 4:20 GMT.