WTCC: Citroen dominate in Slovakia
The sun was shining brightly and the stands were packed as three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs lined up at the front of the grid for Race 1. When the lights went out, Yvan Muller made the most of his pole position, reaching the first turn ahead of the rest, with Sébastien Loeb and José María López neck-and-neck behind him, the Argentine driver just about able to hold off the man from Alsace. Having qualified in seventh place, Ma Qing Hua found himself at the back of the pack after getting stranded on the grid. The Chinese driver immediately set about working his way back up the field, but ultimately withdrew from the race so that his mechanics could locate the cause of his problem before Rac e 2.
Out front, Yvan Muller pulled away from his teammates slightly. Throughout the eleven laps, Sébastien Loeb remained just a few metres behind José María López, without ever finding an overtaking opportunity. So the three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs crossed the finished line in the same order in which they started, with Muller recording his fourth win of the season!
A few minutes later, Race 2 began. Despite the team’s best efforts, Ma Qing Hua again suffered a clutch problem and was forced to resign himself to leaving Slovakia empty-handed.
Sébastien Loeb shot out of the blocks like a cannonball, climbing from eighth to second by the first turn! The nine-time World Rally Champion was closely pursued by José María López, and the two Citroën drivers were quickly joined by teammate Yvan Muller, who had found his way past Hugo Valente.
Loeb slipped past Tarquini at the start of the second lap. One lap later, López and Muller did likewise, meaning there were once again three Citroëns out in the lead! José María López had to use all his racing acumen to hold off persistent pressure from Yvan Muller in a tussle that was spectacular and sporting in equal measure. But there would be no more changes in the race order before the chequered flag. This time, car number 9 took the honours, sharing the podium with numbers 37 and 68.
So Sébastien Loeb scored his fourth FIA WTCC victory, after wins at Termas de Río Hondo this year and Marrakech and the Slovakia Ring in 2014.
The first half of the season ends with José María López at the top of the standings, 30 points clear of Yvan Muller and 61 points ahead of Sébastien Loeb. Ma Qing Hua drops to seventh in the Championship. After achieving maximum points this weekend, Citroën’s tally now stands at 529, 163 more than the second-placed team.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Carlos Tavares, CEO, PSA Peugeot Citroën: “Following an impressive performance in qualifying, these two trebles top off what has been a very exciting weekend. Congratulations to the drivers, who have made sure that all the unstinting efforts of the management, engineers and mechanics have borne fruit. Citroën Racing has once again shown its combative qualities and its strong team spirit. The team is an example for the whole PSA group, showing us what we have to do each day: push ourselves to the limit to achieve things we have never done before. We have to do that every day, working together and trusting each other.”
Yvan Muller: “I am obviously really happy with my results in the two races. In Race 1, getting a good start meant I was virtually assured of victory. I attacked from the very start to make sure the guys behind me couldn’t get in my slipstream. I was able to manage the wear to my tyres, but I still had to stay focused, as Pechito and Seb weren’t too far behind. In Race 2, we all got good starts and we climbed several positions in the first few metres. After a few turns, there was only Gabriele Tarquini in front of us. Seb did brilliantly to take the lead… and we followed him!”
Sébastien Loeb: “I’m thrilled to be back on the top step of the podium. The last time was in Argentina, which is a few months ago now! In Race 1, I tried to force Pechito into an error, but the opportunity to overtake him never presented itself. In the second race, the start was key. I took the right options and immediately found myself battling it out with Gabriele Tarquini. He put up a good fight, but I eventually found a way past. I tried to open up a bit of a gap while the others were still behind him. My Citroën C-Elysée WTCC handled fantastically today!”
José María López: “Congratulations to my teammates on their wins! I’m satisfied with my two podium places. It means I have only lost a few points off my Championship lead. I know that it’s going to be a tough fight right down to the wire, but it’s a real positive to be top of the table at the halfway point of the season, and still with a decent lead. We are all pushing ourselves to our limits. We never stop working and improving. It’s extremely motivating to be part of a team like that.”
Ma Qing Hua: “I’m obviously disappointed to be leaving Slovakia without a point to my name, especially since I had hoped for good results after qualifying. But I had clutch problems at the start of both races. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long before the next race!”