The 2015 edition of the FIA World Touring Car Championship kicked off in Argentina several weeks ago for what is the second season of the TC1 Regulations and the usual seat swaps with drivers and teams coming in and leaving the series.
Heres what happened in the first two rounds of the 2015 FIA WTCC…
Citroen’s Jose Maria Lopez scored a sensational pole position in the first qualifying session of the World Touring Car Championship in Argentina, beating team-mate Yvan Muller by 1.240 seconds.
Argentine Lopez was clearly the fastest driver in the field, edging Muller by a huge 1.240 seconds on his one-shot lap in Q3. Sebastien Loeb was third fastest, having made a small mistake on his single lap. However the Frenchman’s time was nevertheless good enough for third.
Ma Qing Hua in fourth made it a works’ Citroen 1-2-3-4, despite having also made a mistake in the same place as Loeb by running wide. Honda’s Tiago Monteiro was fifth, more than two seconds off the pace, having confessed to also making a mistake on his only Q3 run. ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton was the best Chevrolet driver in sixth, missing out on entry into Q3 by just under a tenth of a second.
The second works’ Honda of Gabriele Tarquini was seventh, with the Italian unable to match team-mate Monteiro all weekend. Stefano D’Aste impressed on his return to the WTCC by qualifying his Muennich Motorsport Chevrolet in eighth, ahead of ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Coronel.
LADA’s James Thompson would start race two on Sunday from pole position having qualified tenth. His team-mate Rob Huff was eleventh, where he would start both of Sunday’s races, despite having earlier been fastest in Q1. Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani had been on the pace throughout Saturday, but an error in Q2 saw him spin off the track and beech his Citroen in the gravel. The Moroccan would start both of Sunday’s races from 12th place.
Neither Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz nor Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente posted a time in qualifying. Valente’s car was still being repaired after his earlier practice shunt. Michelisz suffered the loss of his front-left wheel during Q1 and failed to post a lap time.
Jose Maria Lopez opened his WTCC title defence in spectacular fashion, winning the first race of the season on home soil in Argentina ahead of team-mates Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb.
Lopez led the entire race from start to finish, despite rival Muller challenging on the first lap through the first two corners. The Argentine was hardly challenged thereafter, opening up a manageable two-second lead to kick his title defence off in style. After his initial challenge, Muller was unable to match the pace of Lopez and settled for second, eventually finishing 3.170 seconds adrift. Loeb took third, having never looked likely to challenge his two team-mates.
Works Honda drivers Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini finished in fourth and fifth respectively after a quiet race for the pair. The duo had no pace to match the as-yet un-ballasted Citroens, finishing more than 14 seconds adrift. Zengo Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz was sixth, benefitting the most from other’s misdemeanours. The Hungarian had been forced to come through the pack from the back of the grid after suffering wheel damage in qualifying and not posting a time.
Michelisz was up to ninth by lap three, following Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani, who tried to pass LADAs Rob Huff for seventh. The two made contact, with Huff’s right-rear wheel damaged, allowing Michelisz to progress. Bennani was later handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, leaving him to finish down in 13th position.
Ma Qing Hua took seventh, despite having stalled on the grid and dropped to 13th on the opening lap. The Chinese driver fought back, passing Tom Chilton on lap eight. ROAL Motorsport’s Chilton went on to finish in eighth, having been forced to drive defensively from both Bennani and Ma. WTCC returnee Stefano D’Aste finished ninth for Muennich Motorsport, with fellow returnee Rickard Rydell completing the top ten for Nika International.
On the opening lap of the race LADA’s James Thompson was hit by Campos Racing’s John Filippi, picking up right-rear suspension damage. Filippi was also forced out of the race with damage to the left-rear of his Chevrolet. Campos endured a disastrous race, with Hugo Valente crashing heavily on lap five in an apparent repeat of his practice shunt on Saturday. With significant damage to the front of his Chevrolet it was unlikely the Frenchman would be in race two.
Tom Coronel suffered a turbo issue on his ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet leaving him down on power and the Dutchman pitted for repairs.
Sebastien Loeb scored his third WTCC victory in a chaotic race two in Argentina, finishing ahead of Citroen team-mate Jose Maria Lopez and Honda’s Tiago Monteiro.
Loeb, along with team-mate Ma Qing Hua, made the most of a chaotic start to lead before the end of the opening lap, with the Frenchman settling into second. However the Chinese racer slid off the track on lap three, gifting Loeb a lead he wouldn’t lose. Ma would later be forced to pull into the pits to have his radiator cleared of grass, dropping him down the order. He eventually finished in seventh position.
From tenth on the grid, Lopez was up to fourth by lap three and he passed Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini for second on lap seven following Ma’s demise. However the Argentine was unable to make any significant gains thereafter, finishing the race more than four seconds behind Loeb. Monteiro completed the podium, having passed his experienced team-mate late in the race, leaving Tarquini to finish in fourth.
Mehdi Bennani took fifth, despite once again being involved in controversial incidents. The Moroccan was running in fourth when he was hit by a passing Yvan Muller on lap 11, dropping him a trio of positions. However unlike the incident he caused in race one with Huff, his C-Elysee turned out to be tough enough to continue in the race. Muller continued, but later ran off the track and collected a radiator full of grass. He eventually finished in 11th after pitting. The Frenchman was later handed a five-place grid penalty for the next round in Morocco as a result of the contact.
Norbert Michelisz took the chequered flag in sixth, being forced to defend heavily from Citroen’s Ma, who took seventh, in the closing laps. However after the race the positions were swapped by the stewards, as Michelisz was adjudged to have made unfair contact with Ma in his defence. Tom Chilton finished in eighth as the top Chevrolet driver, whilst his team-mate Tom Coronel retired from the race with damage to his car’s flat floor. Coronel had led the race on the opening lap, but slid wide on lap two causing the damage.
Rickard Rydell finished in ninth in his Nika Honda, with debutant Gregoire Demoustier completing the top ten in his Craft-Bamboo Chevrolet. John Filippi originally finished in 11th but was later handed a post-race 30-second penalty for not keeping pace with the safety car during the earlier safety car period. Neither LADAs finished race two. Poleman James Thompson had dropped to tenth after just a handful of corners, and the Brit retired at the end of the opening lap due to the damage caused in race one. Rob Huff also failed to finish, completing just two laps due to damage on his Vesta.
Dusan Borkovic was running in ninth position until the Serb lost control of his car on lap eight, ripping the front end of his Civic off and forcing him into retirement. The Serbian driver has been suffering cramp issues due to the small nature of the TC1 Honda. Stefano D’Aste also retired from the race, with the Italian going off on the opening lap. Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente failed to take the start due to his race one accident.
The second weekend of the 2015 FIA WTCC Season takes place on the street circuit of Marrakech in Morocco.
All the best!