– Yvan Muller has recorded his 7th race win in today’s opening round
– Chilton endures toughest weekend yet as fight for 2nd in the standings ends prematurely
– Several big-impact melees in both races dictate disappointment for Chilton with two DNFs from contact
MACAU – Sunday 17 November: Yvan Muller charged ahead to his 7th race victory this year in the opening FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Macau – the highlight of what would become a bittersweet conclusion to the team’s 2013 privateer campaign.
From the rolling start Muller lay down the gauntlet as the Lukoil-racer cleared ahead to a healthy margin. Untroubled throughout the race despite others falling prey to the notoriously tight and challenging track, Muller would take another lights to flag victory.
In complete contrast it was heartbreak for Tom Chilton. Contact from Pepe Oriola forced the Briton into retirement on lap two whilst in a strong 3rd position, allowing James Nash to eclipse the former in the standings by a single point.
With Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini not making the start of the race due to engine changes, Chilton was in prime position to challenge for second in the championship standings but an abrupt end would require great comeback in race two.
The RML crew, having already rebuilt Chilton’s car after Friday’s massive crash had another major job on their hands to repair three corners and rebuild the rear of the Aon sponsored Cruze within the short window between races.
To the second race and further drama would dominate – only 15 cars from 33 starters making it to the chequered following two red flags.
Off the line in the standing start and already Chilton was tagged by Norbert Michelisz into a big power slide through turn 1 – fortunately Chiexpertly caught the slide to continue, whilst the Zengo Honda slowed and collected the pack behind as it bounced back across the track from heavy impact in the wall. The first red flag was issued whilst the seven-car pile up was cleared.
On the restart Chilton took full advantage behind the safety car, with the grid being reset to previous positions.
Race one victor Muller was not without trouble in the 24th and final race of this year’s campaign, as the Frenchman had contact with Tiago Monteiro, but the Cruze would continue to run to the flag
Frustratingly the same could not be said for Chilton, as moments later his Cruze came to an agonising halt at Maternity bend, having suffered significant exhaust damage following contact.
As the pack came round to the scene, Eurico de Jesus hit the Cruze, knocking him sideways and stationary across the track.
Despite best efforts from the leading train to slow on approach of the stricken Cruze, a collection of backmarkers would cause another red flag – the positive being teams were given time to repair damage before the final restart – Muller would have a left rear fitted and with a final pass on Marc Basseng, take a grateful 6th position in his last race for the RML team.
Yvan Muller: “Race 1 was (thankfully) relatively straight forward for me. I made a good start and kept Monteiro behind and from there it was a case of maintaining concentration and consistency. It wasn’t an easy win, nothing in Macau is easy! But I am glad I managed a final win with my RML team – this was how I wanted to end what has been a fantastic career with them.
“Race two was much trickier, as expected when midfield. Macau is often with incidents and on such a tight track, you are sometimes powerless to avoid trouble. I had contact from behind when passing Tom’s parked Cruze but fortunately the red flag enabled us to get the damage straightened out and so I was able to continue.
Overtaking isn’t easy here, so for the final laps I was watching Basseng, looking for a way through and finally it came. A little bit of a gamble but he was sensible and saw me coming so we both made it ok and I managed to reach 6th, which I am happy with.”
Tom Chilton: “I’m really disappointed with how this weekend ended. After the practice shunt, I was really relieved to have qualified P7 because it meant everything was still to play for and I was completely focussed on changing our fortunes today.
“I was told Tarquini was out of race 1 so suddenly it was very much game on for second in the championship standings, but I was taken out early on and was powerless to do anything. That gave advantage to James Nash on the points.
“The team yet again did a rebuild for the second race and huge credit to them for getting it done so quickly with limited time between. These guys really are the best in the paddock. And then race two was just another disaster – again contact put me out of the race and in both cases, I think it was unnecessary. I am just really upset that I was caught up in other people’s mistakes and my overall finish is now 5th in the standings. It’s a low note to end the season on.
“I’m sorry for my crew that we didn’t get to reap the rewards but moving on, this has been a fantastic first proper season for me in a competitive car and I’m really proud of how much we have achieved within such a short space of time together.”
Ron Hartvelt: It’s been an incredibly tough weekend for the team and first, I need to thank them for the tremendous effort they have put in, not only here in Macau but all year. It’s been an incredibly challenging year for us – our first without Chevrolet and manufacturer budget – but all year we’ve worked at it, kept our heads down and with the help of Yvan and Tom, have achieved some great success – not least Yvan’s 4th Drivers’ title and Tom’s race wins.
“We always arrive in Macau with a little more anxiety as so much can happen here. Unfortunately Tom has endured probably one the toughest weekends but he has come back fighting from every knock here and has really given it 100%. We’re all bitterly disappointed with his bad run of luck but equally, we thank him for his continued focus. If there’s one thing you need in Macau over luck, it’s resilience.
“Yvan’s race victory is of course a great high point for us and is a fitting tribute to his time with RML. It has been a pleasure for everyone at RML to work with Yvan over the past four years and with a bit of emotion we wish him good luck for the future.”