Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López leads Citroën 1-2 in calm first Vila Real race

Citroën’s José Maria López won the first race of the day at the Vila Real circuit ahead of team-mate Sébastien Loeb, leading a Citroën 1-2 with Zengo Motorsport Honda driver Norbert Michelisz third in a race which saw all the action contained within the first lap.

López and Loeb had a great launch at the start with López leading his French team-mate into the first chicane, while Hugo Valente bogged down from third on the grid in the Campos Racing Chevrolet and was swamped by the three Hondas behind of Norbert Michelisz, Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro.

Valente was now also under attack by the two Citroëns of Yvan Muller and Ma Qing Hua. Muller and Ma had both launched themselves past the two Ladas of Jaap van Lagen and Nicky Catsburg, and Muller was trying to pass Valente’s Chevrolet down the left side up the hill, but when Valente moved to cover him off this allowed Ma Qing Hua instead to pass the young French driver around the other side and up into sixth.

Valente fought back, but the two made contact, with Valente sustaining damage and crawled back to the pit lane to become the race’s first retirement.

The second retirement was Nika Racing’s Néstor Girolami, who had an oil pressure problem from the start. The team worked on the issue during the race and the Argentinian joined the race several laps down to check the problem was resolved.

The remainder of the race was a general procession around the tight Portuguese street circuit, with the closest battles between Honda and Citroën drivers Tiago Monteiro and Ma Qing Hua for fifth, and the two privateer Chevrolets of John Filippi and Grégoire Demoustier for 15th.

López won the race ahead of Loeb with Michelisz third ahead of the two factory Hondas of Tarquini and Monteiro, with Ma and Muller sixth and seventh, followed by the three Ladas of Jaap van Lagen, Nicky Catsburg and Rob Huff completing the top ten.

Race two takes place at 17:15 local time with Ma Qing Hua starting from pole position for Citroën ahead of Yvan Muller.