Gabriele Tarquini finished third for the Lukoil Racing team in his SEAT Leon car behind Chevrolet's Huff and Muller in what was an action-packed race.
The drama began even before the warm-up lap, when Tarquini’s team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo was given a drive-through penalty due to all four of his car’s wheels not being on the ground when the five-minute board was shown on the grid.
In addition, the Ford Focus of Team AON’s James Nash and the Team Engstler BMW of Charles Ng failed to start the race after incidents during race one.
Pole-sitter Stefano D’Aste was first into turn one, but the three Chevrolet Cruze cars of Huff, Muller and Alain Menu were quickly threatening D’Aste. All three took their chance when the BMW ran wide, as did Tarquini.
The all-Chevrolet top three was short-lived, however, as Tarquini grabbed third place from Menu on lap two.
Tom Coronel then passed Menu on lap four before the Swiss driver pulled up with a broken rim following a contact with D’Aste.
The Huff-Muller one-two then survived unscathed until the chequered flag, despite a last-lap incident that saw third-placed Tarquini make contact with the rear of Muller’s car. Tarquini sportingly chose to take no advantage from the collision.
“I think we had some unluckiness in the first part of the season and we had more bad luck in the first race today when I got fired off, but that’s racing,” Huff said.
“The team did the most amazing job to get the car back and straight in time for race two, since both the rear wheels were pointing in opposite directions, and I think we got out of the pit lane with 30 seconds to spare.
Behind the battle for the podium positions, Tom Chilton finished 10th in his Ford Focus after surviving an incident on the second lap with Tiago Monteiro that saw the Portuguese driver retire from the race.
A similar fate befell Alex MacDowall and Gabor Weber, while D’Aste managed to finish in 14th place.
Race one report
The two SEAT Leon cars of Gabriele Tarquini and Lukoil Racing team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo scored a one-two in the first of the day's races.
Alain Menu completed the podium after finishing third in his Chevrolet Cruze.
Pole-sitter Norbert Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport BMW 320 TC was first into Turn One on the opening lap, with Tarquini having passed Dudukalo to mount an early challenge on the leader.
Contact between the leading pair on lap three allowed both the Seat cars to pass the BMW, with heavier contact between Yvan Muller and Michelisz on the following lap meant the Hungarian driver would eventually finish in sixth place. Muller, meanwhile, incurred a drive-through penalty for the move.
Pepe Oriola, in another SEAT, moved into second place on lap six when Dudukalo ran wide at Turn 13, but young Spaniard’s race ended two laps later when a flat front tyre saw him slide onto the gravel at Turn Two.
Despite promising performances in qualifying, neither of the Team AON Ford Focus cars completed the first lap. Tom Chilton went off on the very first corner while James Nash made it as far as Turn Eight before retiring following contact with Tiago Monteiro’s SEAT and the Chevrolet of Robert Huff.
In the Yokohama Trophy, Dudukalo scored the maximum 10 points, with Alberto Cerqui finishing second and Stefano D’Aste third.