Huff, Muller & Michaelisz VC
Yvon Muller with Trophy, Rob Huff & Norbert Michaelisz. Photo by Mike Rutherford

Points leader YVAN MULLER/No.1 Chevrolet won Race One of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Sonoma, after starting third in No.1 Chevrolet. He also turned the fastest race lap of 1:48.088/83.44 mph/134.29 kph, on the second lap.

Menu, Tarquini & Muller. Lap One Turn Two. Photo by Mike Rutherford
Menu & Tarquini. Lap One Turn Two. Photo by Mike Rutherford
No.1 & No.2 R1
Muller & Huff

Pole sitter, ALAIN MENU/No.8 Chevrolet suffered from loss of steering fluid after a Lap One nudge from GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon WTCC. Menu drove off course, recovered and pitted for four laps of repairs. In the meantime, Muller took the lead after pushing his way past Tarquini. Muller never relinquished, although not for lack of trying by his teammate, ROBERT HUFF in No.2 Chevrolet. Huff finished second, 0.564 seconds behind.

Third was leading privateer, NORBERT MICHELISZ/No.5 Zengo Motorsports BMW 320 TC, who turned the second-fastest race time on Lap Five. Behind him Tarquini and ALEX MACDOWALL/No.11 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet were battling fiercely. The wily veteran, Tarquini, prevailed, finishing fourth with young lion, MacDowall, in fifth position. Again – Age and Treachery wins over Youth and Good Looks.

Menu rejoined the race, but finished last of the 18 cars still running. After the race, Tarquini said “I had great expectation. I tried very hard outside on the first coner. Alain unfortunately came from outside, big wheel contact. It bent my front left wheel and the race was very hard for me.”

Chew, Craw & Page VC
Jeff Chew, Nick Craw & Steve Page. Photo by Mike Rutherford

WTCC has FIA podiums for each race. The national anthems and flags of the winning driver and manufacturer are played and displayed. That meant “La Marseilles.” French flag, and winner’s trophy for Race One winner, YVAN MULLER, presented by Sonoma President, STEVE PAGE. For Chevrolet, who won the Manufacturer’s Trophy, it was presented by ACCUS President, NICK CRAW, and accepted by JEFF CHEW, Marketing Manager Chevrolet Motorsports, with the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Stars and Stripes.

Chevrolet will not be returning as a factory team for the 2013 WTCC World Series. If any Customer Teams run next year, it would be up to them to decide whether or not to register for the FIA Manufacturer’s Championship.

Muller maintained the points lead after the race, with teammate Huff a close second. Michelisz retained his Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy points lead.

Muller said “It was a tough race, especially on the inside of Turn One on the first lap with pole sitter/teammate Alain. I used every opportunity. Huff kept me honest. He’s my teammate, has my setups, so he knows everything about my car.

Turn Two Race One Lap One
Turn Two Lap One. Photo by Mike Rutherford

Not unexpectedly, several cars were involved in a first lap incident going into Turn Two. All but one continued on, albeit playing catchup. ALEKSEI DUDUKALO/No.4 retired on the spot. Two other drivers retired after incidents – ALBERTO CERQUI/No.16. on Lap One, and FERNANDO MONJE/No.88 Tuenti Racing Team SEAT.

One of the best parts of the race, in the Media Center, was the Eurosports WTCC announcer, MARTIN HAVEN, with his British dry wit and colorful, descriptive language. Describing a get-together on course, it was that a driver “fell out of bed,” and one driver scampering away after an incident was “like a rat up the drainpipe.” Haven has been with the WTCC Series since the beginning. The Yanks almost got a chance to hear him cover NASCAR for Sportscape, but Eurosport closed it down before Haven had his chance.

The weather was hot – 79 degrees F/26 C. A nice breeze tempered the heat as the clouds parted.