Qatar, Race 1: Chilton edges Bennani
"Yes! The race of my life!"
Tom Chilton defeated Sébastien Loeb Racing team-mate Mehdi Bennani in a thrilling Opening Race at WTCC Race of Qatar as Volvo Polestar’s Thed Björk took a significant step towards being crowned 2017 FIA World Touring Car Champion at the Losail International Circuit.
Briton Chilton stalked Bennani after both Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs had passed DHL pole position starter Kevin Gleason in his RC Motorsport entry. The two French cars put on an entertaining battle, which included some contact, before Chilton made the decisive move on lap eight of 10.
“Yes! The race of my life!” he shouted in delight over the radio after taking the chequered flag. His victory means he now heads the WTCC Trophy for independent racers from Bennani by 1.5 points with just the final Main Race of the season to come.
Once he’d stepped from the car, Chilton added: “Oh wow. It really was the race of my life. We didn’t give each other an inch and at one point I thought Mehdi was going to put me into the tyres. But this is for an FIA world championship – and now I’m leading it.”
Behind the battling Citroëns, Gleason held on to third to score his first WTCC podium ahead of the third Sébastien Loeb Racing entry of John Filippi.
Overall WTCC points leader Björk was a satisfied fifth, a result that stretches his advantage over Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver Norbert Michelisz, who could only finish ninth after his brake problem in qualifying that left him down in 11th on the grid. Polestar Cyan Racing driver Björk now holds a 16.5-point lead over Michelisz ahead of the Main Race season finale.
Björk’s cause was aided by great team driving by the other Polestar Volvos. Returning four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller played tail gunner to Björk, protecting the title leader from attack. Muller fended off ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport’s Rob Huff to claim sixth, with the third Volvo of Nicky Catsburg also playing his part in eighth, ahead of Michelisz’s Honda.
The Main Race of WTCC DHL Race of Qatar takes place shortly, at 22h35 local time.
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