Lopez does the double on home track at the WTCC Race of Argentina

  After the short break, the WTCC (World Touring Cars Championship) Rounds 15 and 16 resumed at the new Argentine track of Termas de Río Hondo over the weekend. Hometown driver Jose Maria Lopez certainly received a lot of attention from domestic WTCC enthusiasts. Lopez turned the 50,000 crowd’s cheers into a double victory, becoming the first driver this year to win both races in the same weekend, and bringing his personal number of successes this season to seven.

López’s perfect weekend started with the pole position and a lights-to-flag win in Race 1, while Race 2 saw him battling to emerge from the middle of the group and taking the lead seven laps from the end. Fellow Citroen Elysee driver and triple WTCC champion Yvan Muller finished third twice, while Norbert Michelisz and Robert Huff each with a second place in race 1 and 2. Huff in the LADA Lukoil squad surprised all when he captured the Russian squad’s first ever WTCC podium. The ex-WTCC champ started from the reverse pole in Race 2, led for eight laps and finished a commendable second.

In the drivers’ standings, Lopez managed to extend his lead by 60 points to Muller, with Loeb a further 37 points away. Citroen is far, far ahead of Honda and LADA in the manufacturers’ rankings.

Lopez pretty much did command and conquer in the first race, although the strong home crowd might have something to do with it. The C-Elysee driver took an authoritative success in Race 1, leading from lights to flag after an impeccable start from the pole. Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro both gave chase in the early going, but soon fazed out. Michelisz was able to hang in with Lopez till the very end, while Monteiro dropped back behind Muller from the middle stint.

Tom Chilton finished 6th and was the best-placed of the RML Cruzes, while another noticeable fact of the race was that two LADA cars finished in the points. Huff took an consistent 7th, just ahead of Tarquini, and James Thompson (LADA) stole tenth in the last corner from Tom Coronel.

Lopez battled back for 2nd victory; Huff shines for LADA with first podium finish

In the second one, a more exciting race ensued with Lopez again at the thick of things. Huff led all from pole as Muller and Loeb got entangled and López sideswiped Coronel, who ran wide, for a position. Lopez battled back and got up to third by lap 6 after he dispatched Monteiro.

Huff in the LADA Granta actually led for eight laps before Lopez side-swiped him for the race lead on lap 9. Behind the duo, Muller concluded the race in third, just like in Race 1, having overtook the Civics of Gabriele Tarquini and Monteiro in last two laps.

For LADA, it was the first time that a Russian-made car had led a WTCC race and finished on the podium. The second LADA of Thompson put icing on the cake when the Brit secured the 10th spot.

Lopez said in post-race, “In Race 2, I went a little bit over the grass after the start, I feared for my radiator but everything was Ok and I could push hard to climb up through the field. Of course, it helped to have raced so many times here and to know exactly every spot of the track and where to overtake. It was like a perfect weekend and in the place I wanted most this to happen… For the championship, nothing is done and now comes the difficult part for me, as I don’t know the Asian tracks, but we’ll try to work as we have done so far and we’ll see.”

Now, the championship goes into a two-month break before resuming at Beijing’s Goldenport Park, China, on 4 – 5 October, for rounds 17 and 18.

2014 WTCC (World Touring Cars Championship) Race of Argentina results

Race 1
1 Jose Maria LOPEZ Citroen 23:10.174
2 Norbert MICHELISZ Honda +2.526
3 Yvan MULLER Citroen +3.271
4 Sebastien LOEB Citroen +7.613
5 Tiago MONTEIRO Honda +8.871
6 Tom CHILTON RML Cruze +9.508
7 Rob HUFF Lada +13.893
8 Gabriele TARQUINI Honda +14.494
9 Mehdi BENNANI Honda +17.929
10 James THOMPSON Lada +25.133

Race 2
1 Jose Maria LOPEZ Citroen 23:16.716
2 Rob HUFF Lada +1.863
3 Yvan MULLER Citroen +2.896
4 Gabriele TARQUINI Honda +5.311
5 Tiago MONTEIRO Honda +5.893
6 Sebastien LOEB Citroen +6.523
7 Norbert MICHELISZ Honda +6.978
8 Mehdi BENNANI Honda +16.464
9 James THOMPSON Lada +16.810
10 Tom CORONEL RML Cruze +22.790

Drivers standings
1 José María LÓPEZ 310
2 Yvan MULLER 250
3 Sébastien LOEB 213
4 Tiago MONTEIRO 146
5 Gabriele TARQUINI 121
6 Tom CORONEL 100
7 Norbert MICHELISZ 100
8 Gianni MORBIDELLI 84
9 Tom CHILTON 83
10 Mehdi BENNANI 57