Yvan Muller extended his World Touring Car Championship points lead as he led Chevrolet teammates Alain Menu and Rob Huff to victory in Race 1 at Curitiba in Brazil.
Two attempts were needed at getting the race underway, with several cars way out of line at the first try at the rolling start. When they did get going, pole-sitter Muller held the lead ahead of Menu and Huff.
The trio was never separated by much more than a second, yet they never even looked like they were going to try and pass one another.
“It was almost impossible to overtake Yvan without taking a massive risk,” said Menu afterwards. “Second place is not too bad but I guess for the championship it is not a good result because he is pulling away a bit.”
Asked whether there was any chance to overtake, Huff said: “No, quite frankly. It's so difficult when you've got three drivers like us and three identical cars with pretty much three identical setups. It's a waiting game really, just a case of looking after the tyres, not pushing too hard, to see maybe later in the race if I could try something but an opportunity never arose for myself or Alain to be able to try and make a move.”
Gabriele Tarquini was the best of the rest in fourth place after getting ahead of the independent Chevrolet of Michel Nykjaer at the start of the race. Tarquini finished 2.7 seconds behind Muller, with the bamboo engineering Chevrolets of Nykjaer and Alex MacDowall a further three seconds down the road. Nykjaer claimed the Yokohama Trophy win on his series return, resuming where he had left off when he took a double class victory at his last appearance in Macau in 2011.
Darryl O'Young was a quiet seventh in his Special Tuning Racing SEAT, finishing clear of the BMWs of Tom Coronel and Norbert Michelisz. Michelisz had been passed at the start of lap four by the SEAT of Pepe Oriola, who had made up places by running off the track at the first chicane on the opening lap. Michliesz regained the place on lap nine and finished just a tenth behind Coronel.
Oriola was tenth, ahead of Tuenti SEAT teammate and 2012 European champion Fernando Monje and the similar Lukoil-entered machine of Aleksei Dudukalo.
The battle for the remaining places was a frantic one, initially headed by Mehdi Bennani. Tom Boardman got ahead, only to drop behind again a few laps later. As he dropped in behind the Moroccan, slight contact was made that put Bennani off line and caused him to lose a couple of places. Boardman was subsequently given a drive-through penalty.
Franz Engstler inherited the lead of the queue, but was spun around by Stefano D'Aste. Eventually it was Bennani took 13th, ahead of fellow BMW drivers Charles Ng and D'Aste.
The Team Aon Fords of James Nash and Tom Chilton were involved in the battle to being with, but ultimately lacked the pace and finished 15th and 16th. Engstler was 18th, while Boardman did not make the finish.
Contact on the first lap between Alberto Cerqui and Tiago Monteiro pitched the latter off track and into retirement, while Cerqui headed to the pits before later rejoining six laps down.