Text: Brent Co / Photos: FIA WTCC Press | posted October 29, 2011 01:12
Menu takes number 4, while Coronel wins his first for 2011
It was a seemingly easy win for Alain Menu for first race in Suzuka as he took the checkered flag easily after several cars were eliminated after figuring in separate crashes during the opening lap. Michel Nykjaer hit Robert Dahlgren's Volvo sending him into a spin and eventually crashing out. Moments later, Tom Coronel and Gabrielle Tarquini come into collision causing a massive pileup involving Tiago Monteiro, Javier Villa, Fredy Barth and Hiroki Yoshimoto forcing race officials to bring out the safety car.
When the smoke was over, only Monteiro and Villa were able to rejoin. Yvan Muller took the lead ahead of Menu on Lap 7 when the race went underway once again after the safety car went out. Muller would eventually lose the lead due to a wrong set-up strategy giving Menu the lead and championship rival Rob Huff would eventually pass him as well to make a Chevrolet Cruze train. But the set-up mistake was most unfortunate as Muller continue to drop down to fourth as Nykjaer would pass him in the Sunred Leon.
The first race ended with Menu pocketing his fourth victory of the season, while Huff finishes second to cut Muller's lead to ten points and Nykjaer claims his first WTCC overall class podium in third.
In the second race, with a reverse grid start it was Tom Coronel taking the early lead aboard his ROAL Motorsport BMW from polesitter Darryl O'Young in the bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze who gets hit by Tarquini's Sunred Leon at the first corner. Midway through the first lap, Dahlgren gets ahead of Menu taking fourth. With good starts, Muller and Huff find themselves closely behind Coronel as they put the pressure on the race leader.
After a disappointing first race, Dahlgren tries to get ahead once more to make a pass at Huff but fails to do so. On the eighth lap, officials decide to penalize Tarquini with a drive through for hitting O'Young on the opening lap, he decides to retire after going into the pitlane for his penalty. As if the day was really not meant for him, Dahlgren finds the engine of his Volvo misfiring and hands over fourth to Menu on the 15th. Back in front, Muller continued to put pressure on Coronel who won merely inches ahead.
The race ended with Coronel winning his first race of the 2011 season and his second WTCC career race victory, Muller finished in second to stay ahead of Huff who finished in third.