Slovakia WTCC: Monteiro takes championship lead with opening race win

Tiago Monteiro won the opening race in Slovakia for Honda after a long fight with Mehdi Bennani, who finished second in his Sebastien Loeb Racing C-Elysee, with Rob Huff completing the podium in his Civic.

Slovakia WTCC: Monteiro takes championship lead with opening race win
Rob Huff, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC; Norbert Michelisz, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC; Tiago Monteiro, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC
Mehdi Bennani, Sébastien Loeb Racing, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
Rob Huff, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC
José María López, Citroën World Touring Car Team, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
Tiago Monteiro, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC
Tom Chilton, Sébastien Loeb Racing, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
Rob Huff, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC; Norbert Michelisz, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC; Tiago Monteiro, Honda Racing Team JAS, Honda Civic WTCC
Mehdi Bennani, Sébastien Loeb Racing, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
Mehdi Bennani, Sébastien Loeb Racing, Citroën C-Elysée WTCC

At the start, polesitter Hugo Valente dropped back to fourth, leaving Bennani in the lead ahead of Monteiro and Lada’s Gabriele Tarquini.

Rob Huff charged up to third place taking the help of Monteiro’s slipstream, as Bennani started defending from the charging Honda duo.

Meanwhile, Valente and Tarquini made contact, with the former dropping down the order to ninth as the Italian retained fourth ahead of Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller in the works Citroens.

Thed Bjork was ahead of Norbert Michelisz in the Polestar Cyan Racing Volvo, but the Honda driver managed to pass the blue car and started following the Citroens very closely.

A mistake by Lopez allowed Muller through, the Frenchman starting to attack Tarquini. However, a great move from the defending World Champion allowed him back ahead of his teammate, but he was unable to pass Tarquini.

With just a few miles to go, Michelisz pulled off a great move on Muller on the outside and almost overtook Lopez as well, but couldn’t make the move on the Argentinian stick.

Zengo Motorsport’s engine woes continued as this time Ferenc Ficza’s Honda Civic caught fire, with the driver hurrying out of his car covered in black smoke.

Meanwhile, up ahead Monteiro managed to overtake Bennani, who left the door a bit too open, and claimed the lead to never look back.

The race finished with the Portuguese driver celebrating his first win of the year ahead of the Moroccan and Huff completing the podium.

Tarquini had a very good defensive race and finished fourth ahead of Lopez, with Michelisz in sixth splitting the Citroens by taking the flag ahead of Muller.

Bjork was eighth ahead of Tom Chilton, who was also second in the WTCC Trophy behind team-mate Bennani, with Fredrik Ekblom taking the last top ten spot, claiming a point despite starting from the back.

Opening race results:

PosDriver CarTime/Gap 
 Tiago Monteiro Honda 23'30.309 
 Mehdi Bennani Citroen 2.526
 Rob Huff Honda 3.119
 Gabriele Tarquini Lada 9.247
 Jose Maria Lopez Citroen 9.453
 Norbert Michelisz Honda 10.085
 Yvan Muller Citroen 10.659
 Thed Bjork Volvo 11.129
 Tom Chilton Citroen 11.606
10   Fredrik Ekblom Volvo 12.567
11   Nicky Catsburg Lada 14.766
12   Hugo Valente Lada 18.505
13   Gregoire Demoustier Citroen 22.752
14   John Filippi Chevrolet 23.189
15   Tom Coronel Chevrolet 25.262
16   James Thompson Chevrolet 25.743
Ret  Ferenc Ficza Honda  

Pietro Casillo/TouringCarTimes

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