Text: Martin Aguilar / Photos: WTCC | posted September 14, 2015 16:13
Jose Maria Lopez wins race 1, extends lead in championship
The FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) returned from its summer break with two 13-lap races at the Twin Ring Motegi race track in Japan. Citroen's José María López claimed his seventh win of the season during the opening event while Tiago Monteiro scored a home win for Honda in race two.
When the lights went out, López got off to a strong start as he rocketed to steal pole position from Honda's Norbert Michelisz in turn one. From there, López didn't look back as the Argentine driver opened up a three-second lead over Michelisz.
On the other hand, Gabriele Tarquini tried his best to overtake Michelisz but the latter prevailed and was able to secure the second spot. Ma Quing Hua managed to finish in fourth after he pulled off a late-braking maneuver from Citroen teammate Yvan Muller who took fifth ahead of Sebastian Loeb.
Mehdi Bennani and Rob Huff finished seventh and eight respectively, while Monteiro and Hugo Valente completed the top ten.
After a lackluster performance in race one, Monteiro managed to bounce back as he scored a home win for Honda in race two. Monteiro recovered from a tough start during the race weekend when he was ordered to the back of the grid for an enforced engine change. He snatched the lead from pole-sitter Valente to clinch his second win of the season and Honda's third.
Valente, who was driving a Chevrolet RML Cruze, managed to defend his position against Muller. The situation got sour for Citroen as Muller was forced to pit when the hood of his car partially opened. Muller rejoined the pack following repairs, but he retired with just three laps remaining.
As a result, the third spot was handed to Huff who fended off Loeb and Tarquini. With this, Loeb managed to gain an advantage at the final corner and finished ahead of Tarquini by 0.089 seconds. However, Tarquini was handed a 30-second penalty and demoted to P12 following his clash with Ma Qing Hua. In this regard, Ma inherited the fifth spot from Tarquini.
Tom Coronel finished in sixth while teammate Tom Chilton in seventh. Nicolas Lapierre and Stefano D'Aste finished in eight and ninth respectively, while Bennani completed the top ten.
After the Race of Japan, Lopez extends his lead in the drivers' standing with 351 points. He is followed by Muller with 277 points and Loeb with 253. The next round of the 2015 WTCC will be at the Shanghai International Circuit in China on September 25 to 27.