Polesitter TOM CHILTON No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze won his first-ever World Touring Car Championship race Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. To say he was excited and pleased was an understatement. He just couldn’t stop smiling. He credited his father, GRAHAME CHILTON, for being his lucky charm at the race. Tom said “It was a pleasure to drive the car.”
Runner-up was TIAGO MONTEIRO No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC, who passed Chilton’s teammate, YVAN MULLER No.12 RML Chevrolet Cruze at the start and never looked back. They finished in that order. No doubt due to his efforts to catch Chilton, Monteiro turned the fastest race lap of 1:46.905/84.36 mph/135.77 kph. Chilton’s Margin of Victory was 2.161 seconds.
Monteiro started tenth, gaining nine positions for the finish, the most of any driver.
Current points leader, Muller, started the race in second place and finished third. He has a 151 points lead ahead of MICHEL NYKJAER No.17 Nika Racing Chevrolet Cruze in the Driver’s Championship standings. Nykjaer started in P17 due to his grid penalty, and finished thirteenth.If Muller scores 15 more points than Nykjaer in Sunday’s Race Two, Muller wins the 2013 WTCC Championship – with three races to go. Muller is adamant that he doesn’t want to think about that now – he wants to concentrate on winning Race Two at Sonoma. He will start ninth in the afternoon race, one spot ahead of his winning teammate, Chilton.
Fourth and fifth overall were ALEX MacDOWALL No.8 and JAMES NASH No.14, both driving Chevrolet Cruze’s for bamboo-engineering. MacDowall also won the Yokohama Trophy for independent drivers. He turned the fastest lap among the Yokohama contingent, at 1:47.212/84.12 mph/135.38 kph.
Nykjaer was the Yokohama points leader coming into the Sonoma weekend, five points ahead of Nash, and 33 points ahead of MacDowall. So, that battle is closer and more contested.
The closest battle was between FREDY BARTH No73 Weichers-Sport BMW 320 in P17, chasing FERNANDO MONJE No.19 Campos Racig SEAT Leon WTCC in P16. Their closing gap was a mere 0.0012.
Twenty-three drivers finished the race, all on the lead lap. DARRYL O’YOUNG No.55 ROAL Motorsport BMW pitted on Lap 6 and retired.
Chilton said “Tiago (Monteiro) made life tough at the beginning. I think I was worried about Muller rather than Tiago. it was happening all behind me in my mirrors. It was quite nice that everyone got through cleanly. I kept expecting a safety car. I’ve got the golden duck and now to get many more. I feel more relaxed for next race. Once you get your first win, a driver wants more.
“Today’s victory was extra sweet after last year. Our contracts were signed very late. This weekend I have some sponsor guests, so it’s nice to have the victory for them.”
Monteiro said he tried very hard. “It was very hot. My reaction time was very good. I was a bit worried about the tires. Tom drove brilliantly and made no mistakes. I’m very happy for myself and the team, here in California on the podium, a very nice place. I learned a lot from the race. I was very happy with my car, and surprised at the car’s performance during the race. It just was not enough to catch Tom.
It was pointed out to Muller that it is not often he’s seen in third position all alone. His response – “I just wasn’t fast enough.
MacDowall said “I went outside my teammate, and once I got my head down I had a good drive. Tried to catch Yvan but just couldn’t. as good as effort as doing. have a good solid weekend hopefully. James Nash gave 1-2 to bamboo engineering. I’m happy to drive the car once again. just to need to find that little tweak to catch the little white Chevy.
The three drivers who were penalized by having to go to the back of the grid appealed, but the Stewards ruled there was no new evidence to support a change, and the penalties were upheld.
The provisional grid for Race Two has been made official – no changes.