WTCC Austria Salzburg (c) WTCC

WTCC: odd goings on in Austria

The WTCC World Touring Car Championship hit Austria last weekend. With a relative hiatus in global motorsport until the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix next weekend, it was the only action on track – and there was plenty to talk about…

Saturday qualifying resulted in a farcical session, as the drivers jostled around in Q2 to try and perfectly position themselves to benefit from the ‘slipstream’ effect to set a timed lap – whereby one car follows another down a long straight, using that car to push the air aside and increase its own top speed.

The FIA stewards weren’t happy with the goings on out on the circuit and hit 12 drivers with penalties and fines – but more importantly, it meant the entire Q2 field missed out on the chance to post a fast qualifying lap.

Speeds dropped as low as 32kph at points – around 20mph – with the biggest penalty going to Tom Coronel, who was fined €4,000 and demoted 15 places on the grid.

Come Sunday and the race, it was a better day for action on track, with British driver James Nash stealing his first ever WTCC victory in his Chevrolet Cruze. Nash started from pole but lost out off the line to Michelisz’s Honda. However, by the end of the first lap he was back in the lead, closely followed by Yvan Muller in the RML Chevrolet.

It was a close battle between the two for the whole race and the Frenchman Muller had the bit between his teeth, charging up the field after starting 10th. However, he couldn’t overhaul Nash, who extended his one second advantage going into the last lap to win by 1.4 seconds from Muller, with Michelisz in his Honda Civic hanging on for third.

Nash’s race 2 performance built on the young Englishman’s strong showing in race 1, recording a second place finish. Nash piled the pressure onto pole sitter Michel Nykjaer – both in Chevrolet Cruzes – but the Dane resisted, leading from flag to finish to complete a flawless race after inheriting pole due to the post-qualifying penalties.

Muller finished third, which allied to his second place in race 2, extended his championship lead to a significant 80 points over Italian Gabriele Tarquini. Nash moved into third on 108 points, but leads the Yokohama drivers’ trophy by eight points from Nykjaer on a total of 78, the latter of which trails Nash by just 12 points in the race for the main drivers’ title.

It might have been a light weekend for motorsport, but the shenanigans at the Salzburg Ring meant it was still an interesting weekend for four-wheeled action.

Check back next Monday for the full race report on the 2013 Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. With Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes-Benz all looking quick, and McLaren receiving updates, it should be a tight weekend on track.

The narrow streets and confines of the Monaco street circuit will undoubtedly make for a great spectacle, and could help the McLaren boys advance further towards the sharp end of the field as they keep searching for the extra last bit of pace from the car.