Successful debut for WTCC in Vila Real

The first FIA World Touring Car Championship event to be hosted by Vila Real (Portugal) was a great success. Large crowds turned up to watch the eighth round of the World Touring Car Championship, in which Jose-Maria Lopez and Ma Qing Hua secured the two victories. The fans saw some exciting racing in every session.

Chase for the DHL pole position

In qualifying on the Portuguese circuit, Citroën once again showed that they were the benchmark. Works drivers for the French marque claimed P1 and P2 in each session. They were joined in the final quali segment by non-Citroën drivers Gabriele Tarquini, Michelisz Norbert and Hugo Valente. 

Valente in the Chevrolet clocked a time that the two Honda drivers were unable to match. Sebastien Loeb temporarily took the lead before Pechito showed why he is the reigning world champion. His team-mates Ma and Muller booked the front row for the second race.

Lopez and Ma with superior pace

The race got off to an exciting start in which all the contestants displayed a high level of discipline. Despite the narrowness of the streets in Vila Real, they occasionally managed to drive three abreast. Valente and Nestor Girolami had to retire early. Valente made a poor start and had a minor bump in which his suspension was sufficiently damaged to force him out of the running. However, both drivers managed to get their cars repaired in time for Race 2. Lopez won the first encounter ahead of Loeb and Michelisz.

The second race was even more exciting, though to some extent marred by accidents.

The second race was even more exciting, though to some extent marred by accidents. After making a phenomenal start, Portugal’s Monteiro got sandwiched between the two Ladas of Nicky Catsburg and Jaap van Lagen. With the cars locked together, both van Lagen and Monteiro collided with the barrier, though fortunately without injury to either driver. While Ma sailed off into the distance, the pursuing pack fought doggedly for positions, but eventually an accident caused the race to be stopped just before the end. The Chinese star driver was deservedly classified as the winner ahead of Muller and Tarquini.

No points for Coronel in Portugal

After a broadly satisfactory conclusion to the race weekend in France, Tom Coronel was unable to carry over the momentum. In the narrow streets of Vila Real, he struggled to find any pace in qualifying and had to settle for P15 on the grid. “I’m disappointed because I could have scored much more,” said the 43-year-old ruefully. “I was on my flying lap, but just before the chicane, I got stuck behind Ma’s Citroën.”

“I did score quite well for the privateers’ championship, in which I am currently fifth,” added Coronel.

Starting from 15th, it was clear that Coronel was in for a tough time. In the first race, the Dutchman got off to a good start and, in the narrow streets of Vila Real, battled his way forward to twelfth. “Overtaking is very difficult here. Consequently, twelfth place was all I could manage in Race 1.” 

At the start of the second race, the ROAL Motorsport driver was hit by flying parts but was fortunately able to continue. When the race was stopped, he was in eleventh place. “I did score quite well for the privateers’ championship, in which I am currently fifth,” added Coronel.

You can watch the highlights of Tom’s race weekend in this video.

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