Lopez takes WTCC drivers championship with Suzuka win
Wins first race to seal title, while Tarquini takes second race.
It was another day to remember for the WTCC, as José María López didn’t miss his rendezvous with history and took the WTCC Drivers’ Championship after winning in style Race 1 and Honda earned a home victory with Gabriele Tarquini in Race 2.
On a gorgeous autumn day, the many Japanese fans enjoyed thus two moments that will be remembered. Discarding any calculation or tactics, Pechito López became Champion in Race 1: he took a perfect start and led the race with authority. The title virtually became his in lap 7 when the only possible rival, Yvan Muller, was stopped by a puncture.
The man who has brought back a world title to Argentina 57 years after Fangio found his crew wearing the Argentine national football team shirts, the white-and-blue striped ‘albiceleste’ colours, and a ‘ranchera’ song from his native Córdoba playing in victory lane. Emotions were running high in Pechito’s face and camp, just as in Argentina, where people have skipped a sleep’s night to follow the race on TV and celebrate. Tom Chilton took an excellent second position, ahead of Sébastien Loeb, after the Brit managed to bend Hugo Valente’s resistance.
Tarquini takes 2
In Race 2, Gabriele Tarquini signed a perfect race, pulling away from the pole to build a sufficient gap and give Honda its second success of the season. The Japanese car showed again excellent pace race, with Norbert Michelisz taking third. In-between the two Civic cars, a delighted Dušan Borković signed his best result of the year (and the first podium in an FIA World Championship by a Serbian driver) with the Campos Racing Chevrolet.
The Spanish outfit could also celebrate the first win of John Filippi (SEAT) in the TC2T category, which broke the string of successes of Franz Engstler. The German however had taken the laurels in Race 1. Henry Kwong and Filipe De Souza shared the honours in the Asia Trophy.
Race 1: José María López secured his first WTCC title with a perfect Race 1 in Suzuka, taking another win (the 9th, equalling Muller’s record of most wins in a season set in 2012).
The Argentine kept his cool in this crucial race and left no room to calculations. Making a perfect use of his pole position, he took a good start and keep things in command until the chequered flag.
His only possible rival, Yvan Muller, escorted him during six laps before suffering a puncture that forced him to the pits. The real battle was for second, between the Chevrolet cars of Chilton and Valente, with the Frenchman passing the Brit in the early stages and bound to keep the position before being passed by Chilton, Sébastien Loeb, Norbert Michelisz in the penultimate lap. Gabriele Tarquini took sixth and Franz Engstler won again in TC2T.
The brand new Champion was welcomed in victory lane by Argentine music and flags while his mechanics were wearing the Argentine national football team’s shirts.
Race 2: After living the crowning of José María López, Japanese fans could enjoy another very emotional moment: the win at home of a Honda Civic.
Gabriele Tarquini left no options to anyone in Race 2, taking a lights-to-flag win from the pole. It was a definitely unusual podium, with Dušan Borković taking a brilliant second spot with the Campos Racing Chevrolet Cruze and Norbert Michelisz completing Honda’s success in third.
Tom Coronel was fourth and managed to keep at bay the three Citroën cars of Muller, López and Loeb, who could never approach the top positions. Hugo Valente, who was holding an excellent fifth position in the initial laps, was not rewarded of his efforts, as he was hit and ousted of the race by an attack of Muller that cost the Frenchman a reprimand issued by the Stewards.
It was also a day to remember in TC2T, as John Filippi took his maiden win, at the wheel of the SEAT León of Campos Racing, following Engstler’s retirement, thus rounding the excellent day of the Spanish squad.
Difficult qualifying for Honda at Suzuka
Honda wins in Suzuka – Tarquini takes impressive victory
As a Paralympian, Alex Zanardi became a household name and an inspiration to millions. But his indomitable spirit and speed in a racecar had already made him a hero, writes David Malsher-Lopez.
Tiago Monteiro seemed destined to win the World Touring Car Championship last year, until a huge testing crash halted his charge. After early whispers of a swift racing return, he recounts his arduous (and incomplete) road to recovery.