WTCC: Wins for Muller and Lopez in France
The FIA World Touring Car Championship’s first visit to the Paul Ricard Circuit drew huge crowds, with many spectators attracted by the presence of Citroën Racing and its home-grown drivers, Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller.
Starting the first race in pole position, Yvan Muller held off his rivals to notch up his first win of the season. His two teammates, Sébastien Loeb and José-María López, finished second and fourth despite starting from the back of the grid!
In race 2, José-María López achieved the impressive feat of moving through the field from last place to first. Once again, Citroën Racing claimed the top two places on the podium, with Yvan Muller in the runner-up spot, while Sébastien Loeb ended up sixth.
After bright sunshine for yesterday’s qualifying sessions, rain soaked the Paul Ricard Circuit in the early hours of Easter morning. The showers stopped just before the start of the first race, which caused the teams to waver as to their choice of tyres. Like their rivals, Citroën played it safe by opting for wet tyres.
When the red lights went out, Yvan Muller made an uncertain start and took the first corner in third place, behind Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz. By the end of the first lap, however, the man at the wheel of Citroën C-Elysée WTCC n°1 was back in front of the Hungarian. Having made excellent starts from the back of the grid, Sébastien Loeb and José-María López had already climbed up to sixth and seventh spots.
Yvan Muller then found a way past Tarquini on lap 3, and immediately stretched his lead over the Italian. In the chasing pack, Seb and Pechito mirrored each other’s exploits, both proving too strong for Rob Huff, Hugo Valente and Norbert Michelisz. With three laps to go, Sébastien Loeb even made the most of a tiny error by Gabriele Tarquini to grab second place! So Seb joined Yvan Muller on the podium, while José-María López had to settle for fourth.
Despite further showers in the afternoon, the track was drying out by the time the second race began. This time, all the drivers chose to run on slicks. With the grid from race 1 reversed, Yvan Muller began from 10th position, while his teammates again set off from the back of the pack.
The first lap was chaotic, but all the cars came through unscathed. José-María López was the best-placed of the Citroën Total drivers, in seventh! He was just ahead of Yvan Muller, while Sébastien Loeb lay in eleventh spot.
Seb then managed to haul himself into the same group as his teammates, but found himself stuck behind Dusan Borkovic. Blocking the Citroën man at every turn, the Serb ended up sending him crashing into a tyre stack. Despite some damage to the front right part of his C-Elysée WTCC, Loeb was able to continue his race after the safety car came out.
Meanwhile, José-María López and Yvan Muller had made their way up the field, after some epic overtaking manoeuvres. Now lying second and third behind Tiago Monteiro, the Citroën drivers first battled it out between themselves, spending half a lap side-by-side! The Argentine driver was able to keep his advantage, and both C-Elysées then overcame Monteiro on lap 14 of 18.
So Citroën achieved another 1-2, with Sébastien Loeb’s sixth place also earning some precious World Championship points.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “With one pole position and two first and second places, this has been a positive weekend for us. Yvan Muller had a difficult time of it in Marrakech, but this time he was the one who scored the most points over the whole meeting. Pechito and Seb produced excellent races considering they had been relegated to the back of the grid. Seb wasn’t as well rewarded as Pechito, but he has proved beyond doubt that he will be a regular contender for victory. We’re going to use the week ahead to work on the cars before the back-to-back meetings at the Hungaroring and the Slovakiaring.”
Yvan Muller: “I nearly went for slicks for race 1, but it was too risky. I got off to a very bad start, but I didn’t fall too far down the field. I didn’t panic, as I knew I had the speed. After Michelisz, I passed Tarquini on a corner where he lost power. In race 2, the first lap was a little bit crazy and I lost places while avoiding other cars at the chicane. The battle with Pechito was competitive but respectful: just the way it should be between teammates. First and second is a pretty good result: I couldn’t have hoped for more from this weekend!”
Sébastien Loeb: “The first race was difficult, but interesting. I was hoping to work my way up the field, but not as far as second place! The trickiest part was finding the right pace for the conditions, but the car felt great and I was able to attack hard. It was tough finding a way past Gabriele Tarquini: he was defending his position perfectly, but then I saw him make a little mistake and I was able to overtake. The second race was frustrating for me, not least because of how Borkovic behaved. But to look on the bright side, I was lucky to have been able to recover and notch up a few points.”
José-María López: “Even when you start from pole position, winning is never easy. You can’t imagine how thrilled I am to have won a race after starting from 18th on the grid! I made a cautious start, but I still managed to move up five or six places by the first corner. There were cars all over the place at the chicane and that’s where I went past Yvan. That was the key to the race, as I would never have been able to get ahead in normal circumstances. I attacked to work my way up the field, but there were no low blows in the pack! Of course, the safety car helped me to make up ground on Tiago Monteiro, but sometimes you need a bit of luck to win.”