Sébastien Loeb wins incident packed second race in Argentina
Citroën’s Sébastien Loeb won the second race of the 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship season at Termas de Río Hondo, driving from eighth on the grid to first, finishing ahead of team-mate José María López, who leaves his home race with the championship lead in a race which saw plenty of incident.
After damage in the first race, Lada Sport did well to repair James Thompson’s car to allow the British driver to start from pole position for race two, with Tom Coronel also having had a turbo replaced before the race to allow the Dutchman to take up his second position on the grid for ROAL Motorsport.
At the start, Coronel made the better getaway, while Thompson’s Lada was clipped by Stefano D’Aste’s Münnich Motorsport Chevrolet into the first corner, with both cars retiring with damage shortly after, with the sister Lada of Rob Huff back in the pits after one lap after his race one damage wasn’t able to be fully resolved.
Gabriele Tarquini had charged down the inside on the grass into Turn 1 and was up to second, but as he lined up a battle with race leader Coronel, he was attacked by Ma Qing Hua’s Citroën who managed to pass both Tarquini and Coronel for the lead, with team-mate Sébastien Loeb moving through into second position.
On lap two, Loeb took the lead as Ma made a mistake and went wide, filling his radiator with grass. Similarly Tom Coronel threw his Chevrolet off wide and dropped down the order as the safety car came out to allow the recovery of Stefano D’Aste’s Chevrolet Cruze from the circuit.
Coronel and Ma were forced to pit to have their radiator grills cleared, with Ma’s stop promoting Tarquini back up to second with race one winner López now up to third ahead of Mehdi Bennani’s SLR Citroën and the Honda of Tiago Monteiro in fifth, with Yvan Muller’s Citroën sixth.
The race restarted on lap seven, with López passing Tarquini down the back straight to grab second, but the Argentinian was unable to close the gab on his Citroën team-mate, which allowed Loeb to cruise on to take his third career victory in the WTCC.
Tom Coronel pitted and retired having broken the flat floor on his Chevrolet with his earlier off, while there was further drama in the mid-pack, as Dusan Borkovic’s Honda Civic was passed by Tom Chilton’s ROAL Chevrolet for eighth. The Serbian, struggling this weekend with discomfort in the small Honda hatchback, was now under attack by Rickard Rydell’s Honda, and went wide under pressure, ripping the front splitter off his car and was forced to retire, the sixth and final retirement from the race.
On the same lap, Muller dispatched Monteiro’s Honda for fifth and set about attacking Mehdi Bennani’s privateer Citroën C-Elysée. The two made contact on lap ten, with Bennani dropping two spots while Muller was able to continue and was up to fourth, but a mistake at Turn 11 on the following lap saw Muller fall back behind Monteiro on the track. Muller was then forced to pit to have his radiator cleared due to overheating, which saw the four-time champion fall down to 12th position and last.
Monteiro would later gain one spot from Gabriele Tarquini who had a problem late in the race, allowing the Portuguese driver to grab the final spot on the podium.
Bennani was able to reclaim one position to take the Yokohama Independents’ Trophy class win from Norbert Michelisz in the Zengő Honda, while Ma Qing Hua recovered to finish seventh in his Citroën followed by ROAL’s Tom Chilton, NIKA’s Rickard Rydell and Craft-Bamboo’s Grégoire Demoustier, with the Frenchman picking up a point with tenth on his WTCC debut.
José María López leads the championship standings leaving his home race on 48 points, with Loeb just five points adrift on 43, with Monteiro 15 points further behind on 28.
The next round of the championship takes place at Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Marrakech, Morocco on April 19th.