Photo: Citroën Racing

Yvan Muller closes points gap in fight-filled Spa race one

Yvan Muller closed the points gap down to team-mate José María López to 32 points after taking victory in the first race at Spa-Francorchamps, while the first race was full of battles behind him, with team-mates Sébastien Loeb and José María López battling throughout for second, with López getting the better of him on the final lap.

There was pre-race drama for the Campos Chevrolet of Dusan Borkovic, fresh from an engine change overnight, who had left oil on the track at the Bus Stop chicane.

At the start, Muller got away well from pole position while the other Campos Chevrolet of Hugo Valente went wide off the track at the start at La Source with Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini fighting him for the spot. Valente then plunged down into Eau Rouge side-by-side with Tarquini and took back fourth, while Tarquini slipped down the order after being forced to lift and losing momentum.

Tom Chilton in the ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet had stalled on the grid from 11th and dropped to dead last, but was able to charge through the field to grab tenth by the end of the race, while Gianni Morbidelli had a terrific start in the Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet from tenth, and drove straight up to fifth by the end of the first lap, which became fourth when Hugo Valente was handed a drive-through penalty by the stewards for exceeding the track’s limits.

Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani was also given a drive through penalty for the same offence after cutting the track, which saw Valente and Bennani finish the race 12th and 13th.

Lada’s Rob Huff had a good start, but a spin at Campus on the first lap saw him drop right to the back of the grid. The British driver would recover to 16th, but it was Mikhail Kozlovskiy who scored the best result for the Russian manufacturer with 14th.

Loeb and López battled throughout the race, which allowed Muller to build a comfortable lead ahead of them. It wasn’t until the final lap that López was able to get the better of Loeb, passing the Frenchman around the outside and grabbing 12th, minimising his points loss to title rival Muller.

At the finish, Honda’s Tiago Monteiro made a final challenge at the Bus Stop on Morbidelli for fourth, but lost pace in the drag up to the finish line, which allowed the ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet of Tom Coronel to pinch fifth by 0.073 seconds, with Monteiro dropped to sixth, the top Honda finisher, ahead of Norbert Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini’s Honda Civics.

Dusan Borkovic put on a sterling drive from last to claim ninth in the Campos Racing Chevrolet, with Tom Chilton completing the top ten after passing Citroën’s Ma Qing Hua late in the race.

The second race follows imminently with Gianni Morbidelli on pole in the Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet Cruze.