WTCC: Marrakech – Morocco sees Citroen dominate in the new C-Elysee WTCC touring car
Citroën Racing had a historic day at the Moulay El Hassan circuit in Marrakech. In its very first race in FIA WTCC, the team secured a 1-2-3 with José-María López, Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller.
The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs also finished first and second in race 2, with Sébastien Loeb winning ahead of Pechito Lopez. After being caught up in a collision at the start, Yvan Muller was forced to pull out.
José-María López leaves Morocco as the World Championship leader, one point ahead of Sébastien Loeb.
After clocking the best times in both free practice and qualifying, the Citroën Total WTCC Team and its drivers went into the races hoping to turn these performances into results when it mattered.
The heat was still stifling when the first race began in the late afternoon. When the lights went out, José-María López and Sébastien Loeb took control, but it was Yvan Muller who got off to the best start. The four-time World Champion had already overtaken Tom Chilton to move into third place before the first corner.
Bunched together, the three Citroën C-Elysées wasted no time in pulling away from the rest of the field. Improving on the best lap time lap after lap, Pechito set the pace for his teammates. Wary of losing braking efficiency, the drivers then settled into a slightly slower rhythm. This allowed Chilton to gain ground on the leading trio, who crossed the finished line in the same order.
There could be no prolonged celebrations, as the technical team quickly had to set about preparing the teams for race 2. With the top ten from qualifying starting in reverse order on the grid, Yvan Muller was the best placed, in seventh. Sébastien Loeb and Pechito Lopez started from 9th and 10th positions respectively.
A few hundred metres after the start, Medhi Bennani ran into Tom Coronel, causing the latter to hit the safety walls with some force. Yvan Muller, who had once again got off to an excellent start, was unable to avoid the stranded Dutchman. So the C-Elysée WTCC n°1 was sidelined, with considerable damage to the front right part of the car. The track was strewn with debris, and the red flag was brought out to halt the race,
before a restart behind the safety car. Having restarted in third position, behind Bennani and Monteiro, Sébastien Loeb quickly moved up to second. Bennani was then handed a ‘drive through’ for his starting manoeuvre, but the nine-time World Rally Champion didn’t even wait for his rival to serve this penalty before snatching the lead.
Meanwhile, José-María López was weaving his way through the pack and, after passing Valente and Monteiro, he found himself back on Loeb’s tail! The C-Elysée WTCCs completed a double, and Sébastien Loeb once again made history by becoming one of the very few drivers to have won races in two FIA World Championships.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “We would never have dared dream about the result we achieved today. After being part of the Loeb/Sainz/McRae treble at the Monte-Carlo Rally in 2003, I am delighted to have witnessed an equally special achievement from Pechito, Seb and Yvan. It’s not the same category, or the same era, but there are nevertheless similarities between these two great moments in Citroën Racing’s history. The main thing they have in common is the state of mind of the team, who were both humble and combative in achieving a result that surpassed our expectations. The only fly in the ointment was Yvan Muller’s accident at the start of race 2. I’m disappointed that he wasn’t rewarded today for the effort he has invested with us to develop the car and organise the team for this new challenge. We’re going to prepare a great car for him for next weekend.”
José-María López: “I’m really proud to be part of this team and this is a day I will remember for a long time. For race 1, I knew that the most important moment would be the start. Getting out in front early on made it easier for me to let my brakes cool down. It was a difficult race, but the second one was harder. I was lucky enough to avoid the accident that Yvan got caught up in. I was then able to climb up the field and move into second without taking any risks. Congratulations to Sébastien on his win. You’d think he’d been competing in this championship for years!”
Sébastien Loeb: “I didn’t know what to expect today, but Citroën have developed a fantastic car. The balance of the chassis, the engine… everything was perfect. We could have battled it out between us, but it was impossible to find a way past Pechito in the first race. He didn’t make any mistakes and I decided to settle for second when the brakes started to heat up. In race 2, I was lucky at the start too. After that, we were faster than the competition and we were able to move out in front.”
Yvan Muller: “I’ve never really had success at this circuit, and this is probably one of the worst weekends I’ve had since I’ve been involved in WTCC! Race 1 went well. My sole aim was to pass Chilton at the start and to keep my place on the podium. I thought it was too risky to try and attack my teammates on this circuit, particularly with just four days to go before the second meeting of the season… I tried to avoid Tom Coronel’s car at the start of race 2, but it bounced off the wall and hit me. There was nothing I could do, but that’s motorsport! It wasn’t a good weekend for me, but first and foremost I am a Citroën driver, and I am proud of the team’s results in its first WTCC meeting.”