Lada racer Rob Huff scored a dramatic seventh victory in Macau after heartbreak for Tiago Monteiro in an unpredictable 2014 World Touring Car Championship finale.
Briton Huff was engaged in a ferocious three-car fight for the lead with Monteiro and Yvan Muller for much of the race.
Two laps before the scheduled finish, Portuguese ex-Formula 1 driver Monteiro appeared to have done enough to score his first win of the season, having eked out a comfortable two-second lead.
The intervention of a late safety car appeared to hand Huff a final opportunity to recover terms on Monteiro.
The factory Honda racer successfully defended his position into Lisboa on the restart, only to falter with a power steering problem exiting the Melco hairpin on the final lap.
“Without Tiago’s problem, I don’t think I could have won,” said a modest but delighted Huff.
“I didn’t know at the time what the problems was, but it caused him to hit the wall, and that made me hit the wall exiting Melco.
“I knew the Lada wasn’t the quickest car in a straight line, so I had to make it really wide when fighting my old friend Yvan. I am so pleased for everyone at Lada Sport.”
Eighth-place starter Muller provided a determined attack throughout, but finished just 0.3s adrift of Huff at the finish. The Alsace driver locked his front axle on the final restart, gently nudging Huff, before momentarily losing ground.
Polesitter Hugo Valente had dropped to second behind fast-starter Monteiro away from the line, and the Parisian’s attempt to recover the position at Lisboa on the opening lap resulted in outbraking himself and falling to fifth.
Valente worked himself back up to the final place on the podium by diving inside race one runner-up Norbert Michelisz into Lisboa on the penultimate lap.
Hungarian Honda privateer Michelisz finishes the season without a win, but his consistent frontrunning performances earned him fourth place in the drivers’ standings behind the dominant Citroen trio of Jose Maria Lopez, Muller and Sebastien Loeb.
Recently crowned WTCC champion Lopez finished fifth ahead of former World Rally Championship star Loeb.
Lopez has achieved the record for both most wins in a season, with 10, and most points.
Front row starter Tom Chilton took seventh place, one second clear of ROAL Motorsport team-mate Tom Coronel.
WTCC veteran Franz Engstler brought his seventh and final season in the series to a close with victory in the Yokohama Trophy and 10th overall.
Only two Hondas started the Macau finale, as factory driver Gabriele Tarquini withdrew with illness and Proteam was unable to repair Mehdi Bennani’s car following his race one accident.
RESULTS – 11 LAPS:
|1||Robert Huff||LADA Sport Lukoil||Lada||28m21.086s|
|2||Yvan Muller||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||0.344s|
|3||Hugo Valente||Campos Racing||Chevrolet||3.352s|
|4||Norbert Michelisz||Zengo Motorsport||Honda||3.990s|
|5||Jose Maria Lopez||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||4.285s|
|6||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||4.825s|
|7||Tom Chilton||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||5.562s|
|8||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport||Chevrolet||6.615s|
|9||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil||Lada||8.252s|
|10||Franz Engstler||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW||41.038s|
|11||Rene Munnich||All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport||Chevrolet||1m31.505s|
|12||John Filippi||Campos Racing||SEAT||1m38.302s|
|13||Filipe Souza||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW||1m40.310s|
|14||Ka Lok Mak||RPM Racing Team||BMW||2m04.022s|
|15||Henry Kwong||Campos Racing||SEAT||2m22.483s|
|16||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda||Not running|
|–||Ma Qing Hua||Citroen Total WTCC||Citroen||Retirement|
|–||Mikhail Kozlovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil||Lada||Retirement|
|–||Gianni Morbidelli||All-Inkl.com Munnich Motorsport||Chevrolet||Retirement|
|–||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda WTC Team||Honda||Not started|
|–||Mehdi Bennani||Proteam Racing||Honda||Not started|
|–||Williams Lok||Campos Racing||SEAT||Not started|
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||462|
|13||Ma Qing Hua||69|
|20||Pasquale Di Sabatino||2|