Jose Maria Lopez has claimed the FIA World Touring Car Championship title in style with victory in race one at the Chang International Circuit, with his only last-standing championship contender Yvan Muller crashing out.The Argentine driver produced a flawless lights-to-flag victory from pole position in Thailand to successfully defend his WTCC title with three races remaining in the season to celebrate his crowning glory.
A first corner smash between the two LADA Rosneft Vesta cars of Nicolas Lapierre and Nicky Castburg with the ROAL Chevrolet of Tom Coronel forced a lengthy safety car period from the start of the opening lap.
The race was extended by two laps due to the running lost behind the safety car as Lopez bunched the pack up before the restart.
The Citroen driver got the perfect drive down the pit straight and held off the attacks from Sebastien Loeb to eventually take victory and with it the title in style.
Loeb, who has closed the gap to Muller for the runner-up spot in the WTCC standings, claimed a useful second place ahead of fellow Citroen driver Ma Qing Hua for an all-Citroen podium.
With the long list of non-finishers, eight in total, the running order was jumbled about with Mehdi Bennani grabbing fourth ahead of Gabriele Tarquini with the sole remaining LADA of Rob Huff finishing sixth.
Tiago Monteiro picked up useful points in seventh as Stefano D’Aste, Gregoire Demoustier and Tin Sritrai rounded out the points-paying positions.