Citroen Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez won the dramatic opening race of the World Touring Car Championship at the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit after a massive shunt saw Tiago Monteiro and Yvan Muller, who were running in first and second, retire from the race.

Lopez started the last lap in third place but was unable to avoid the incident ahead that was started when Monteiro went off the circuit. The Citroen racer held off Sebastien Loeb Racing’s Tom Chilton to take the victory, the fourth of his 2016 season.

The hard task for Yvan Muller and Jose Maria Lopez’s road position was showed at the start when the Citroen Racing factory drivers took the outside line into the first turn in the hope of getting a better run out of the corner. Muller and Lopez drove around the outside of Tom Chilton to take fourth and fifth on the road. This soon became third and fourth at Wipperman when Bennani ran out wide. By the time the pack reached the end of the GP loop at the start of the second lap the duo were second and third when Bjork had to retire his Volvo S60 run by Polestar Cyan Racing due to having engine issues. This ruled out any chance of a podium finish for him as he retired from second place.

After Bjork retired from the race Montiero, who had started on pole position, was able to stretch out his lead through the middle sector of the lap and managed to maintain a one second advantage heading onto the Dottinger Hohe straight. He managed to survive a very nervy moment towards the end of the straight as Muller and Lopez tried to out-brake him into Hohenrain. This backed the duo up on the start-finish straight. He managed to build a gap afterwards as Lopez battled to maintain his third place from Tom Chilton and was looking to have the victory within his grasp. The Portuguese driver then appeared to suffer from a tyre failure and slid off halfway around the final lap of the race, he had a hefty shunt into the barriers before being thrown back onto the middle of the circuit. Muller had nowhere to go and hit straight into the stricken car. Both of the cars retired on the spot but Lopez managed to sneak his way around the outside of the incident and emerged unscathed and in the lead of the race.

Lopez’s Citroen looked to be skating and sliding around the final few turns but depite Tom Chilton closing in on him the Argentinian driver held on to take the win with Chilton taking second. After the leading duo retired from the race, Honda were promoted onto the podium with Norbert Michelisz taking third place. Teammate Huff drove astonishingly, he managed to gain twelve places from sixteenth to fourth during the three lap long race. He passed fifth placed Bennani on the final lap.

Lada drivers Hugo Valente and Gabriele Tarquini finished sixth and seventh in their Vestas with Fredrik Ekblom finishing in eighth from last on the grid. Nicky Catsburg dropped from fourth on the grid but managed to salvage just two points down in ninth place with Sabine Schmitz getting the final point for finishing in tenth place after passing Gregoire Demoustier.

The results of opening race are as follows:

  • Jose Maria Lopez ~ Citroen Racing
  • Tom Chilton ~ Sebastien Loeb Racing
  • Norbert Michelisz ~ Honda Racing Team JAS
  • Rob Huff ~ Honda Racing Team JAS
  • Mehdi Bennani ~ Sebastien Loeb Racing
  • Hugo Valente ~ LADA Sport
  • Gabriele Tarquini ~ LADA Sport
  • Fredrik Ekblom ~ Polestar Cyan Racing
  • Nicky Catsburg ~ LADA Sport
  • Sabine Schmitz ~ Munnich Motorsport
  • Gregoire Demoustier Sebastien Loeb Racing
  • Ferenc Ficza ~ Zengo Motorsport
  • Tiago Monteiro ~ Honda Racing Team JAS ~ Retirement!
  • Yvan Muller ~ Citroen Racing ~ Retirement!
  • Tom Coronel ~ ROAL Motorsport ~ Retirement!
  • Thed Bjork ~ Polestar Cyan Racing ~ Retirement!
  • John Filippi ~ Campos Racing ~ Retirement!

 

©Fay Tilley 30th May 2016.

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