Reigning champion Seat’s Leon TDI turbodiesels dominated the opening round of the 2009 World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Brazil last weekend, qualifying on pole and winning both races
Reigning champion Yvan Muller led race one from lights to flag. He started from pole and opened a gap that his rivals couldn’t close, hanging on to the lead at a restart after a Safety Car period.
There was chaos early when Alain Menu drove his Chevrolet Cruze off the track while trying to pass Seat’s Tiago Monteiro.
Several cars followed him, BMW’s Jorg Muller hitting fellow BMW pilot Andy Priaulx and then Menu. Priaulx rejoined, but Muller and Menu pitted for repairs. Priaulx fought back to finish ninth.
Yvan Muller’s teammates, Jordi Gene, Rickard Rydell and Gabriele Tarquini (pictured), filled the next three places in their Leon diesels.
Nicola Larini crossed the line fifth and scored the first points for the new Chevrolet Cruze, and Augusto Farfus and Sergio Hernandez were the best of the BMW men.
They were classified sixth and seventh, ahead of Monteiro who would start race two from pole.
Seat drivers took the top four placings in race two which started behind the safety car on a track flooded by a violent thunderstorm.
In the early stages, BMW drivers, Felix Porteiro, Andy Priaulx, Sergio Hernandez and Augusto Farfus, set the pace.
But the Seats surged through, making the most of their wet-weather grip.
Tarquini passed Farfus, Hernandez and Priaulx in the first four laps, then passed pole-starter Felix Porteiro's independent BMW.
Rydell, Gene and Yvan Muller also passed the BMWs to finish in that order behind Tarquini.
The BMWs struggled for grip on the wet road, but Jorg Muller, who started 19th, charged through to finish fifth as the track dried.
Farfus was sixth, ahead of Porteiro who took his second independent victory of the weekend.
The new Chevrolet Cruze showed flashes of competitiveness, like Menu's second place in the first qualifying session and Nicola Larini's fourth-across-the-line in race one (a penalty subsequently dropped him down the order).
The new Ladas weren’t on the pace, but score the first points by a Russian manufacturer in a world championship.
Race One results
1. Yvan Muller, Seat.
2. Jordi Gene, Seat, +2.098s.
3. Rickard Rydell, Seat, +2.880s.
Race Two results.
1. Gabriele Tarquini, Seat.
2. Rickard Rydell, Seat, +0.810s.
3. Jordi Gene, Seat, +5.869s.