SEAT team-mates and title rivals Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller waltzed to a 1st and 2nd place each in both of Sunday’s WTCC races.
BMW had a shocker of a day, with Augusto Farfus scoring a sole point in Race 2, and Andy Priaulx failing to score at all. It was left to Alex Zanardi to pick up the pieces, with a pair of 4th places, and Sergio HernÃ¡ndez picking up 7th in Race 1.
Lada however had their best ever weekend in their history, with James Thompson finishing 6th in both races, in the new Lada Priora.
Chaos ensued from the word go in Race 1, and apart from Tarquini, everybody had to be on their toes to react to whatever argy-bargy came their way. A massive pile-up at turn one was triggered by Jordi GenÃ© tapping Rob Huff‘s Chevrolet into a spin, who could not avoid the SEAT of Rickard Rydell. Contact with GenÃ© then sent Rydell across the middle of the road, collecting Farfus, JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller and Tiago Monteiro in the process. Surprisingly, everyone except Monteiro was able to continue afterwards, but their luck was mostly short lived.
Despite being on the recieving end of the smash, Huff was surprisingly calm about the incident afterwards, “GenÃ© came up very quickly behind me coming into the first corner. I got hit behind and had Rickard (Rydell) on the inside of me. Somehow I found a way through, looked in my rear-view mirror and was surprised to see nobody. The SEAT cars were fast but in the second half of the race I had more pace.”
The chaos at the first turn had promoted Yvan Muller to 2nd, and Huff was still on his tail despite the earlier knock, as James Thompson’s Lada started to hold up a long train of cars.
Nicola Larini went out with a bang at the end of Lap 4, after ploughing straight on into the gravel trap after being passed by Priaulx, due to an apparent explosion. Larini lept out the car as fast as he could, just before the inside of his Chevy Cruze caught fire.
The Thompson Train started to irritate many of the drivers trailing behind him, and a lunge around the outside of Tamburello by Stefano D’Aste saw him run wide across the gravel trap, and then being tapped into a spin by Alain Menu as he tried to rejoin the track.
Menu lost numerous places after that contact, and passed the Lada of Jaap Van Lagen and Kristian Poulsen before the race was turned (quite literally) upside down. Poulsen whacked Van Lagen’s Lada, causing it to barrel roll into the Tamburello barrier. Poulsen’s attempts to rejoin the track quickly were rendered pointless after being spun out by team-mate Franz Engstler only seconds later.
The Safety Car provided some much needed calm after the Van Lagen/Poulsen incident, but it wasn’t the end of the inevitable crashes and smashes for the race.
All three Chevrolet drivers were having hectic races, and Menu caused yet more grief for BMW when he hit Priaulx and sent him into the gravel trap. Priaulx limped on, and after another two off-track excursions finished a dissapointing 13th.
Race 2 was another walk in the park for Muller and Tarquini, but this time their positions were reversed, with the Frenchman taking victory.
Huff was once again the victim of too much argy-bargy, after being punted off the track by Tarquini on a charge to the front.
GenÃ© was being as aggressive as ever, and a lunge at HernÃ¡ndez ended with HernÃ¡ndez, rather inevitably, going backwards.
And the SEATs weren’t finished dishing out the pushing and shoving just yet. Monteiro tapped the back of Tom Boardman‘s Independent SEAT Leon TFSI on the run down to Rivazza, cutting accross the corner entry and shooting straight across the track again inches from Boardman’s front end. It was the nail in the coffin for Monteiro’s weekend, eventually finishing 3 laps down.
Thanks to the incidents in Race 2, plus two BMWs and Rydell’s SEAT starting from the back of the grid, Thompson was able to pick up another 6th place for Lada, but given another lap Rydell could have easily passed him.
D’Aste finally got the Independent’s win he looked comfortable for in Race 1 before his altercation with Menu, and was pleased by his performance later in the day; “I got a good start in the second race. Engstler and Boardman closed me in like the ham in a sandwich but I managed to slip out. My car was very quick and I got a good rhythm. Now we are one of the fastest Independent teams in the championship.”
But the happiest man on Sunday was championship leader Tarquini, celebrating a near-perfect weekend in front of his home crowd; “It has been amazing to score 18 points for me and more points for SEAT. I feel better now it is Yvan behind me in the championship but I am sure Augusto (Farfus) will be back in Japan.”