BMW dominate as SEAT falter

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Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus took a win apiece at a drenched Okayama circuit, while championship leader Gabriele Tarquini relied on team orders took keep his advantage in the title race.

The track was hit by a sudden deluge just before the start of Race 1, so the race was started under Safety Car conditions.

Once the race finally got underway, disaster struck for polesitter Tarquini. He ran wide at Turn 2 and took a trip across the grass, dropping down the field and letting Priaulx into the lead. He and team-mate Jorg Muller pulled away from the rest as the race went on.

However Muller didn’t make it easy for Priaulx, as fading brakes for the Brit meant Muller caught him rapidly in the last few laps and tried a couple of passing moves on him, but without success.

“When Gabriele Tarquini went off after the start, I almost followed him into the gravel,” said Prialx. “Muller drove a strong race behind me, and he was always in my mirrors. Had the race been one lap longer, he might have overtaken me. The fight was good fun, but I must admit I was happy when it was over.”

Rob Huff stole 3rd from Jordi Gene after a mistake by the Spaniard, which meant he was forced to succumb to team orders and drop down to 6th behind Tarquini and Yvan Muller, who was another benefactor of the Italian’s Turn 2 adventure.

Tiago Monteiro was 7th after fulfilling team orders and letting past Tarquini early on, and Farfus came 8th, taking Pole Position for Race 2 in the process.

Not that his 8th place was an easy one. He followed Tarquini into the grass and dropped to 14th. He picked his way through the Lada‘s of James Thompson and Jaap van Lagen, the other Chevrolets of Nicola Larini and Alain Menu, plus eventual Independent class winner Tom Coronel.

Behind Coronel there was a late battle for 2nd in class between Felix Porteiro and Stefano D’Aste which ended in the latter spinning out with a lap to go.

The second race had an even more chaotic start, demonstrated by the fact Priaulx was on race winner Farfus’ rear bumper by the end of the first lap. He had started from 8th after his Race 1 win, but his team-mate Jorg Muller dealt with the cars in front rather too aggressively and almost wiped them all out.

He had a brilliant start, trying to make a move on Monteiro for 2nd place. But Monteiro was not having it, and edged the German onto the grass, causing him to spin out. His car was like a missile into the side of Gene’s SEAT, and also took out, you guessed it, Gabriele  Tarquini.

Turn 2 was causing even more aquaplaning than Race 1, and few made it through unscathed. This helped Priaulx from his 8th place grid slot to 2nd place, and Alain Menu up to 4th from 9th on the grid. His team-mate Huff was even more surprising, vaulting from 17th on the grid to an eventual 6th place. The biggest surprise of all though was Jaap van Lagen’s Lada launching up to 6th place.

Gene made it through the Turn 2 carnage in 5th, but had damage to the rear of his car and had to let Tarquini by, as did Rickard Rydell, dropping them to 9th and 8th respectively.

Lada’s fortunate start was wrecked however when both Van Lagen and Thompson retired with mechanical issues within a lap of each other.

Stefano D’Aste bounced back from his Race 1 off to win the Independent’s class in Race 2, holding of Porteiro who slowly dropped down the order from 5th place. Coronel was held up avoiding the melee at Turn 2 and could only manage 3rd in class.

Tarquini really does have his team to thank for him still leading the championship. What was a dismal weekend for the Italian could have been a whole lot worse if it weren’t for Gene & Co. He leads team-mate Yvan Muller by 2 points going into the season finale at Macau, and is 13 points ahead of Farfus. Its a steep, steep hill for the Brazilian to climb, but stranger things have happened in the past…

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