López does the double at home, Huff takes first podium for Lada
José María López stormed through from tenth on the grid to take his seventh win of the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship, while Rob Huff took the best result for Lada in the WTCC with second after starting from pole position, with López the only driver to get near him on the track.
Huff started ahead of Campos Racing’s Hugo Valente from the reversed grid, but the fast-starting Hondas stormed past the Chevrolet-equipped Frenchman at the start, with Mehdi Bennani up to second ahead of the two factory cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro.
Sébastien Loeb was the highest positioned Citroën at the start, but the nine-time World Rally champion was run out wide by team-mate Yvan Muller as the four-time champion started to work his way forward. Next up for Muller was the Zengõ Motorsport Honda of Norbert Michelisz, but while Muller tried to pass the Hungarian around the outside, team-mate López snuck down the inside and was up into seventh position before the end of the first lap.
Up front, Rob Huff was pulling away from the chasing Hondas behind him, which made it clear early on that the only threat that could stop Huff from claiming Lada’s first victory in the WTCC was going to come from Citroën.
López worked his way ahead of Hugo Valente’s Chevrolet on the second lap, while the factory Hondas moved ahead of the independent Proteam-run Honda Civic of Mehdi Bennani. As Tom Chilton tried to set-up a pass on the Moroccan, López used the superior straight-line speed of the C-Elysée to blast past the pair of them for fourth on lap five.
López dispatched the two factory Hondas on lap six, which left him with seven laps to close down the 2.5 second gap up the road to Rob Huff’s Lada.
It took just two laps, with López overtaking the British driver down the back straight on lap nine, and pulled away to a two second lead and take his first career double victory in a weekend.
Muller was held up for two laps in a dice with former RML team-mate Tom Chilton behind, eventually able to grab the position, but next up was Sébasiten Loeb, who made contact with Chilton’s Chevrolet causing terminal damage for the ROAL Motorsport driver.
Muller would go on to catch the two Hondas, passing Monteiro on lap 10 and Tarquini on lap 11, but ran out of time to catch the Lada of Rob Huff and would have to settle for third, losing another ten points to López in the drivers’ championship battle.
The next round of the Championship takes place in two months time at the Beijing Goldenport circuit, a new venue for the WTCC, replacing the cancelled round which was due to take place at Sonoma Raceway, USA.