Briton Tom Chilton cantered to a comfortable victory in the Opening Race of WTCC JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan as the factory Hondas and Volvos entertained in frenetic battles behind him at Twin Ring Motegi.
Sébastien Loeb Racing driver Chilton started his Citroën C-Elysée from the front row alongside reverse-grid pole position man Kevin Gleason. Chilton took the lead at Turn 1 and then simply stretched his lead over the course of the 11-lap race to win by an impressive 13.1 seconds to stretch his lead at the top of the WTCC Trophy standings.
“I was really nervous after my practice start in the pitlane because I had so much wheelspin,” said a delighted Chilton. “But we tried something new for the start and it was perfect. In these races it’s all about the start and from there I was able to just keep my nose clean. The car is so consistent and easy to drive.”
As Gleason recovered from a half spin at Turn 1, his RC Motorsport team-mate Yann Ehrlacher moved into second place from his third spot on the grid and held the position all the way to the flag, despite pressure from both Polestar Cyan Racing’s Thed Björk and new Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team driver Esteban Guerrieri.
WTCC points leader Björk and Guerrieri enjoyed a spirited duel, with Guerrieri surviving a sideways moment that resulted in contact with the Volvo to claim third place. Björk consolidated his title lead with solid points for fourth after a battle he admitted might have been “too tough” on occasion.
Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani claimed fifth ahead of pole position starter Gleason in sixth.
Norbert Michelisz took seventh after an eventful race in his Honda. Starting eighth, Michelisz looked set to fight his way through the field only for the Volvo of Néstor Girolami to knock him into a spin. The Argentine was recovering from his own moment when he made contact with the charging Honda and was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident. He would be classified 11th.
Rob Huff struggled home in eighth after a race in which his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Citroën C-Elysée appeared off the pace. The Briton spent most of the race defending from faster rivals and held off Nicky Catsburg at the flag, who was recovering from his own drive-through penalty for contact with Ryo Michigami’s Honda.
Source: FIA WTCC