WTCC: Citroen the new kings of the Ring
The temperature was close to zero when the cars took to the track for their short early-morning warm-up session. This final practice allowed the drivers to test out their race setup, designed to give them a sharp turn of speed and thus maximise their chances of overtaking.
Race 1 began without incident for José María López, who was the first man to the first corner. His teammates Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller also got perfect starts from third and sixth on the grid. From the very early stages of the race, Pechito attacked hard to put himself out of reach of the chasing pack. In control throughout the three laps, the Argentine driver was not to be put off his stride by a few drops of rain falling on his windscreen. The reigning World Champion was once again the first man across the finishing line, notching up his fourth win in as many meetings! Ma Qing Hua started from fifth, and finished fifth, unable to find a way past Norbert Michelisz.
With light rain falling on various parts of the circuit, the track was deemed to be wet for Race 2. Nevertheless, all the drivers opted to stick with their slicks. When the lights went out, Yvan Muller once again made an inspired start. The man from Alsace soon found himself in second place between Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini. Behind Tom Coronel, Mehdi Bennani led a chasing pack of Citroëns comprising Ma Qing Hua, José María López and Sébastien Loeb.
At the end of lap 1, Yvan Muller used Tiago Monteiro’s slipstream to propel himself into the lead. Tom Coronel also succumbed to the pressure from the men on his tail and was passed by Bennani, Ma, López and finally Loeb. The same pack reassembled over the course of lap 2. Locked in a fierce battle, Ma and López both overtook Bennani. One more lap remained to determine which of these talented drivers would emerge on top!
Ma Qing Hua felt the pressure and found himself crashing hard into the safety barrier. López and the others managed to find their way through the debris without losing touch with the leading trio. Around the Karussel, the pack re-formed once more, and there was still everything to play for going into the final straight!
Yvan Muller put himself out of reach, while José María López overcame first Gabriele Tarquini and then Tiago Monteiro to snatch second spot. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs thus achieved a terrific one-two, with Sébastien Loeb claiming fifth place.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Linda Jackson, CEO, Citroën: “I’m delighted with my first weekend on the ground with Citroën Racing. First of all, of course, I must pay tribute to the team’s excellent results on the track. A treble and a double are just reward for the hard work of a team of passionate professionals. I was also impressed by the sheer talent of the group of drivers assembled by Yves Matton, particularly on this circuit! The Nürburgring and the Nordschleife are renowned in the motorsport world, so Citroën can be proud that its C-Elysées have come out on top here.”
José María López: “All the drivers wanted to win here, and me more than anyone! It’s an incredible feeling to have won on a track like this. In Race 1, Hugo Valente got a bad start, which made my life easier. I was able to pull away on the first lap as I wanted to and Seb wasn’t in a position to get into my slipstream on the long straight. In Race 2, I was following Ma, who was pushing hard all the time. I couldn’t get past and I must say I had resigned myself to remaining stuck behind him! When he crashed, I was able to come back at the Hondas. I thought I would be able to overtake Tarquini, but I also managed to get the better of Monteiro, who had fallen out of Yvan’s slipstream. It was a really fantastic weekend. Congratulations to the whole team, who were at their best once again…”
Yvan Muller: “I think we put on a good show for the TV viewers! I made a little mistake on the GP circuit on the last lap. So from then on I tried to keep a bit of a safety margin. We chose an aggressive setup, with very little downforce so as to maximise our top speed. So handling the car on the bends was trickier than normal. This meeting at the Nürburgring has been very positive for the FIA WTCC as a whole, because it has attracted unprecedented media interest.”
Sébastien Loeb: “Driving here was a completely different experience from what we are used to! When I was behind Pechito, I saw him take off with all four wheels, which is a pretty rare sight in track racing! In Race 1, I tried to attack at the start, but never managed to close the gap on José María. So from the end of lap 1 I decided to play it safe and make sure I finished second. Race 2 was more frustrating for me. I really did try everything to work my way up the field, but I couldn’t do any better than fifth. I’ve held on to second spot in the overall standings… just. I’ll have to do even better next time because Yvan is only a point behind me now!”
Ma Qing Hua: “It’s been another mixed weekend for me. Race 1 was trouble-free and I managed to score some points. I started behind Michelisz and couldn’t find an opportunity to overtake him. In the second race, I tried my best to defend my position, but that’s no easy task when you’ve got José María López on your tail!”