José María López wins race and title at Suzuka

José María López won the first race and the 2014 drivers’ championship title at Suzuka as team-mate Yvan Muller had to retire due to rear-left puncture. The Citroën driver came home ahead of ROAL Motorsport’s Tom Chilton, with Sébastien Loeb completing the podium after a thrilling final lap.

The start was smooth, but Loeb lost his third place and dropped down to fifth behind Chevrolet duo of Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente. The Brit lost position at 130R on the first lap though, as he went wide and allowed Valente through.

This triggered a race-long fight, with Chilton attacking and defending from Valente and Loeb at the same time. Meanwhile López started opening a gap from Yvan Muller and eventually managed to get it up to over three seconds before the Frenchman’s Citroën C-Elysée slowed down due to a problem with the rear-left wheel and Muller had to retire, leaving the title in the hands of the Argentinian.

The race continued to be thrilling, though, as Norbert Michelisz fought hard with Honda stable-mate Gabriele Tarquini for sixth. Valente, now defending his second place, resisted until two laps to go, when Tom Chilton pulled a surprise attack on him at Turn 14 and managed to pass. As the Frenchman tried to fight back he went wide at 130R, triggering a series of contacts out of which Michelisz emerged in third ahead of Loeb, only to give his place back to the Frenchman shortly after. Meanwhile Dusan Borkovic succeeded in his race-long battle with Honda’s Tiago Monteiro to claim eighth.

A very emotional López won the race and the championship ahead of Tom Chilton and Sébastien Loeb. Norbert Michelisz came fourth but is currently under investigation for having cut the circuit. Valente finished fifth ahead of Gabriele Tarquini, with a consistent Tom Coronel finishing in seventh ahead of Borkovic and Monteiro. The last points-scorer was Gianni Morbidelli, who had slipped down to eleventh after a poor start.

Race 2 starts at 15.40 local time with Gabriele Tarquini starting from pole position for Honda.