WTCC: Lopez & Loeb share the spoils in Argentina
José María López and Citroën leave Argentina as leaders of the World Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships.
The cars lined up on the grid for race 1 in suffocating heat. José María López was in pole position, followed by Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua, the Citroën Total WTCC team having made quite an impression in qualifying!
When the lights went out, it was Yvan Muller who got the best start – so good, in fact, that he overtook López. Pechito was back ahead at the first turn, however. Behind Muller and Loeb, Ma Qing Hua stalled at the start. Lap by lap, the gaps between the top three widened significantly. The chasing pack was a much livelier affair, with Ma Qing Hua providing his fair share of entertainment by climbing back up to seventh!
Race 2 was always likely to be much harder to win, as the Citroëns were starting from the fourth and fifth rows of the grid. But the C-Elysée WTCC drivers proved to be in inspired form, not least Ma Qing Hua, who was leading, ahead of Sébastien Loeb, at the end of lap 1!
The Chinese driver slipped up on the second lap, however, and Loeb seized the opportunity to move past him. Forced to stop so that the mechanics could remove the grass that had amassed in front of his radiator, Ma lost the advantage his superb start had earned him. The safety car was then brought out after a succession of incidents in the pack.
At that point, Sébastien Loeb was out in front, with Gabriele Tarquini in second and José María López lying third. After making a mess of his start, Yvan Muller found himself back in sixth place. When the action resumed, the four-time World Champion managed to climb a couple of places, but he then ran onto the grass and had to make an express stop in the pitlane. Having controlled the race beautifully, Sébastien Loeb claimed a well-deserved victory, ahead of José María López. Ma Qing Hua once again finished seventh, while Yvan Muller ended up outside of the top 10.
Interestingly, the results of this first meeting of the season are very similar to those from the 2014 curtain-raiser in Marrakech. In its very first FIA WTCC outing, the team achieved a 1-2-3 with López, Muller and Loeb in the first race, before Loeb and López took the top two spots in the second!
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Julien Montarnal, Director of Marketing, Communication and Sport, Citroën: “The 2015 World Championship is well and truly underway. This meeting saw the kind of passionate crowds we have come to expect here, and an excellent overall result for Citroën. José María López lived up to his World Champion status and proved to his teammates and rivals that he remains the man to beat this year. Sébastien Loeb’s joy at the end of race 2 was a pleasure to behold. With a season’s experience under his belt, he appears to be ready to move up the pecking order. Yvan Muller and Ma Qing Hua didn’t have a very successful time here, but we are sure to see them both on the top step of the podium soon. “
José María López: “I’m happy, but it was really tough out in the cars in that heat! Race 1 went perfectly. I didn’t get a great start, but I managed to hold off Yvan. That gave me confidence going into the second race. I tried to be patient and bide my time before going after my rivals. Seb was really quick out front and I couldn’t get past him. Congratulations to him on a great victory. It’s been a very positive weekend for the team, and for me too, because I leave here at the top of the World Championship standings!”
Sébastien Loeb: “It’s terrific to start the season like this. There isn’t much to say about the first race. I was happy just to keep my position. In race 2, I was looking for a win, and I got off to a good start from 8th position. Then some overtaking opportunities opened up on the first bend. By the end of the first lap, there weren’t many cars left in front of me. I attacked and was able to slip past Ma Qing Hua when he made a mistake. After the safety car, Pechito was hot on my heels. I had to push hard again to stop him getting into my slipstream.”
Yvan Muller: “I got a really good start in race 1 and was up alongside Pechito. But he managed to maintain his advantage, and from then on the race was over. We’ve got the same cars – it’s impossible to overtake each other in normal circumstances. My start in the second race was a disaster! I fell back further over the first few bends. I picked the wrong option every time. As I tried to make my way back up the field, I clipped Mehdi Bennani’s car and I’m sorry about that. It certainly wasn’t a dream start for me…”
Ma Qing Hua: “I had the potential to do better. By stalling at the start of race 1, I lost the advantage I had earned in qualifying. Race 2 could also have turned out differently, had it not been for the little mistake I made. I’m staying positive, though, because I performed at a good level. I’m already thinking about the next race!”