WTCC: Five out of five for Citroen C-Elysee WTTC in Marrakech
For the first time in its motor sport history, Citroën has claimed the top five spots in an international competition.
Encouraged by the balmy weather, spectators flocked to Marrakech’s Moulay El Hassan circuit to witness the third and fourth races of the FIA World Touring Car Championship 2015.
Race 1 began in spectacular fashion, with Ma Qing Hua making an explosive start from the second row to pass Mehdi Bennani and draw level with José María López. The two Citroëns were door-to-door going into the first bend, but the Argentine was able to cling onto his lead thanks to his inside position. Sébastien Loeb slipped into third spot, while Yvan Muller moved up several places after avoiding the pile-up at the first turn.
The four Citroëns wasted no time in pulling away from the chasing pack. Ma put pressure on López, and Bennani on Loeb, but the race order remained unchanged. Sébastien Loeb’s task was particularly tough, as his bumper had been damaged in a collision with his rival. Back in the pack, Yvan Muller had got stuck between Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini, but the four-time World Champion eventually found a way through to move up into fifth!
In scenes resembling a parade, the first five cars to cross the finish line were all Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs as López, Ma, Loeb, Bennani and Muller made history!
A few minutes later, the cars were back out on the grid for race 2. This time, Yvan Muller had no obstacles in his path, starting from pole position. The man from Alsace was still leading at the first bend, with Sébastien Loeb in second. Once again, the first lap saw plenty of commotion in the pack. Behind Muller and Loeb were Chilton, Valente, López, Ma and Bennani.
Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb were putting on quite a show out front, with little to separate them. Lap by lap, Valente and Chilton succumbed to the onslaughts of José María López, who worked his way up into third place! Ma Qing Hua, meanwhile, was finding the going tougher: after climbing to fifth, the Chinese driver made a mistake and ran into a safety wall. He was able to resume his race, but finished out of the points.
So Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and José María López monopolised the podium for race 2, once again securing maximum points for Citroën in the World Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton: “Our drivers have just written a new chapter in Citroën motor sport history. Their quintuple success is testament to the speed and reliability of the C-Elysée WTCC, as well as the close-knit nature of our team. Pechito and Yvan turned their qualifying results into race wins, while Seb once again showed the progress he has made, with two podium finishes. Qin Hua also put in a good performance, and it’s great to see him showing what he can do like that. Congratulations must go to Mehdi Bennani, too. He shone in front of his home crowd and won the private drivers’ trophy.”
José María López: “Thanks to all the team for a fantastic weekend. I had to fend Ma off at the start of race 1. He was really close, so I had to attack quite hard to open up a bit of a gap. Often, I feel quite relaxed after winning the first race. This time, though, I was feeling anxious because I didn’t want to lose too many points against Yvan and Seb. I got off to a good start and managed to avoid the accident at the first turn. After that, I gradually made my way up the field and ended up on the podium. It was quite unexpected, but it’s a great result as far as the Championship is concerned.”
Yvan Muller: “I got a good start in race 1. I was careful on the first bend, because I didn’t want to wreck the car and compromise my chances for race 2. Finishing fifth after starting from so far back on the grid was satisfying. Race 2 was no easier. I had to attack from start to finish, as Seb didn’t let up. Even when I was out in the lead, I constantly had to keep an eye on the temperature of my brakes. I am really happy to get back to winning ways. It had been a long time!”
Ma Qing Hua: “I’m happy with my second place. I wanted to battle it out with Pechito and I tried my luck at the very beginning, when the gap was still small. But our pace was similar and it wasn’t easy. I was going well in race 2, but my brakes got hot while I was following the other drivers. I crashed off into a wall, but I was able to continue and make sure I finished.”
Sébastien Loeb: “After a frustrating qualifying day yesterday, the races have gone well. We managed to improve the car’s setup, and everything went OK. I got away brilliantly in race 1 and immediately found myself in third. Mehdi was hot on my heels, and I had to hold him off all through the race. I tried to keep up the pressure on Yvan, but overtaking a four-time World Champion who had the same car as me was nigh on impossible!”