Qatar WTCC: Bennani leads Bjork in season finale
Mehdi Bennani converted his surprise pole into his second victory of the season for Sebastien Loeb Racing, fighting off the factory Citroen of José Maria Lopez and then the Volvo of Thed Bjork for the win.
Bennani started from pole position and kept the lead into Turn 1 ahead of Lopez, who had got the jump on Bjork’s Volvo into the first turn.
The safety car was soon deployed after the Volvo of Robert Dahlgren was taken out of the race due to contact from Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton.
Meanwhile, the two Ladas of Hugo Valente and Nicky Catsburg also came together at Turn 5 as Valente ran wide in his repaired Vesta, running Catsburg out and through the gravel trap.
Catsburg subsequently picked up a puncture and was able to continue after a quick trip to the pits, but Valente had to retire with broken suspension.
The race was restarted on lap four, and this time Lopez was having to defend against Bjork, which allowed Bennani to pull away into the lead.
Honda driver Norbert Michelisz muscled his way past Yvan Muller’s Citroen for fourth, with the Frenchman now coming under attack from Tiago Monteiro.
The two former teammates battled it out on lap five, but both made minor contact at Turn 5, with Monteiro being forced out wide and narrowly missing the tyre stack, dropping a spot to the Lada of Gabriele Tarquini.
On lap six, Bjork overtook a struggling Lopez into Turn 1, whose car seemed to be having problems after contact in Race 1 with Monteiro and Valente.
The Swede then began to close up on race leader Bennani, and was right with the Moroccan throughout the last half of the race, but a mistake on the penultimate lap saw Bjork drop a second behind and was unable to challenge for his second victory of the season.
Monteiro had managed to get back ahead of Tarquini on lap eight for sixth and had closed back in on Muller.
Michelisz then lost pace during the final laps and fell back towards Muller and Monteiro.
The Hungarian was on target to take third in the drivers’ championship from his Portuguese team-mate but then Monteiro was able to pass Muller for fifth on the final lap, which allowed him back ahead in the standings, finishing just one point ahead of Michelisz.
Bennani held on to take his second win of the season, and his first in a non-reversed grid race in the Sebastien Loeb Racing Citroen C-Elysee, while Bjork finished second, 1.2 seconds behind.
Three-time champion José María López finished third in his final race in the championship.
|3||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroën||4.815||3.639|
|15||Daniel Nagy||Honda||1 lap||1 lap|
|16||Tom Chilton||Citroën||7 laps||6 laps|
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes
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