– Chilton’s dominant form continues with lights to flag victory in race 1 – his first in the WTCC
– Muller takes another podium in 3rd – his 12th visit this season
– RML built Cruze’s fill 4 of the top 5 places and now claims 12 wins races from 18
SONOMA [USA] – Sunday 8 September: Tom Chilton has today continued his dominance at the Sonoma Raceway with a historic lights to flag maiden victory in the FIA World Touring Car Championship opening race.
With a tick already in the pole position box, the Aon-backed driver’s intentions were clear from the onset – a perfect getaway from the rolling start ensured Chilton led the pack over the tight, twisty and undulating track despite immediate pressure from the lunging Honda of Tiago Monteiro who, unable to make a mark on the pole sitter, would interrupt the proceedings at turn two – separating the all red and white front row to claim second.
Over the ensuing laps as the race settled into its rhythm so too did the exchange of fastest laps between the top two competitors, yet whilst the visible gap on track made steady progress to over a second, Chilton would later recount that it was far from straight forward, “That Honda was strong – I had no time to relax from the start – every lap was a qualifying one!”
In the sister Cruze, also laden with the handicap of success ballast as with all Chevrolet Cruzes, Muller was unable to reclaim his second place but valliant persistence ensured the triple-World Champion was never far from the Honda ahead. The Frenchman’s third place finish edging him ever closer to that fourth world title.
Tom Chilton, speaking after R1: “What a fantastic weekend! It’s just such a great feeling to take my first would touring car win and to achieve it after being the fastest man in qualifying yesterday, it’s exactly what I’d hoped for. But I had to work for it and to stay ahead of Yvan and Tiago really was key. Tiago kept the pressure on so every lap had to be inch perfect, which meant I was adjusting my driving over the distance to aid the tyres and prevent wear. And thankfully, I just got everything perfect. Now I need to continue this form for the remaining races – it’s a relief and a real boost to get that first victory in the bag.”
Race two would prove not to be a match for Chilton’s opening success. As the RML duo lined up 9th and 10th for the reverse grid, it was Muller who would take advantage as the Frenchman fought his way through the field with a steely drive thanks to a great start, finishing just outside of the podium in 4th. Recovering well from his earlier race disappointment, Muller may not yet be crowned 2013 Drivers’ champion but the additional points will carry his target into Japan as the series returns to Asia later this month.
There was plenty of midpack action for Chilton as the race one victor found himself jostling for position with Daryl O’Young, keeping the Aon-driver busy from start to finish. He would eventually finish 11th.
Yvan Muller: “Today I was not fast enough. I was expecting warmer temperatures and I did a set-up that was ideal for hot temperatures in the first race. I did wrong and it was my mistake, but I wasn’t fast enough to follow Tom and Tiago. Anyway, from the beginning of the weekend I have been one step down from what Tom has done so the weekend is just continuing.
“We made some adjustments for race two and it worked out better for me and I was able to fight through to 4th. It was tough out there but with some good racing so I am pleased with 4th and further important points.”
And on that looming championship, Yvan adds: “It’s very difficult not to talk about the championship because fifty people have talked to me about it already today! When it happens, someone will tell me and then I can celebrate, but at the moment nobody told me it is done and so I race as normal.”
Ron Hartvelt, WTCC Project Supervisor: “That was spectacular race win for Tom, he drove a perfect race from start to finish under immense pressure from Tiago and Yvan, so all credit to Tom. I’m really proud of the team for this achievement – Tom is clearly very ambitious for his WTCC career and has been working incredibly hard with the crew and his engineer since he joined us. This isn’t an easy track to master on setup and is very unforgiving on tyres, so to claim his maiden victory here just reconfirms how focussed and determined Tom is for success.
“Yvan was a little frustrated after the first race but I think he made up for any personal disappointment in race two – another great drive through the field to grab more championship points. We can leave Sonoma with great satisfaction and look ahead to the Asian rounds with great optimism for further success.”
1. MULLER Yvan 343
2. TARQUINI Gabriele 199
3. NYKJÆR Michel 180
4. NASH James 160
5. CHILTON Tom 160
6. HUFF Rob 143
7. ORIOLA Pepe 127
8. MICHELISZ Norbert 126
9. CORONEL Tom 114
10. MONTEIRO Tiago 102
The FIA World Touring Car Championship resumes at Suzuka, Japan, on 21-22 September 2013.