WTCC: Citroen on top of the world in Shanghai claiming a second world title
The day began with qualifying, postponed from Saturday. The four official Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs all made it through to Q3 to battle it out for pole position. Yvan Muller was the first to go. He made a little mistake in the last sector and it was no surprise when his time was beaten by Nick Catsburg, the only driver to seriously challenge the Citroën boys’ supremacy this season. Sébastien Loeb couldn’t outdo the Dutchman, but Ma Qing Hua managed it two minutes later. José María López then rounded off the session in style by picking up his fifth pole position of the season!
A few hours later, the drivers lined up on the starting grid for Race 1. When the lights went out, Ma Qing Hua was left stranded on the grid, while José María López immediately took the lead. The first lap was chaotic, with five cars forced to withdraw after a number of collisions.
The safety car was brought out and the pack closed up, with José María López, Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb leading the way. After five laps, the pace was stepped up again. Pechito put himself out of reach of his teammates, who in turn moved well clear of Catsburg. In the chasing pack, Ma Qing Hua climbed to eighth position, but was then forced to abandon his race due to a broken transmission.
With a 1-2-3 finish for López, Muller and Loeb, Citroën scored enough points to secure the WTCC title with five races to spare.
After the podium ceremony, the cars returned to the overheated asphalt for the second race of the day. It was Tarquini who took control at the start, with Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb going at it door-to-door behind him. The four-time WTCC World Champion finally got the better of the nine-time World Rally Champion. Lying in wait behind his teammates, José María López took advantage to slip in between them!
Muller never let Tarquini get away, and made his move just after the halfway mark, sneaking past his rival at his first attempt at the end of the long straight. Once he found himself out in front, the man from Alsace soon put himself in an unassailable position.
The battle for second place was far from a foregone conclusion, however. López tried to slip past Tarquini whenever the opportunity arose. But at the finish line, it was the Italian who clinched the runner-up spot by just 0.025s! Sébastien Loeb, who was struggling with a tyre that was in danger of going flat, played it safe and settled for fourth. Ma Qing Hua ended up eighth, just behind Mehdi Bennani. The Sébastien Loeb Racing driver also claimed his second victory of the weekend in the Yokohama Trophy (for independent drivers).
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “First of all, I would like to thank our drivers for the work they have done and for their sense of fair play. Even with the best car and the best team, you can’t achieve these kinds of results without exceptional drivers. In particular, I would like to thank Yvan, who was the first to join us and made sure we were ready from the very start of the 2014 season. When we talk about Citroën Racing, that also includes all the staff at our technical centre. You don’t see them on the television, but they are an integral part of this World Championship title.”
José María López: “Congratulations to the whole Citroën Racing team: the people who are here, but also those who stay in Versailles while we are at the circuits. As for today’s action, I was a little worried at the start of Race 1. I couldn’t see Ma Qing Hua in my rear-view mirrors and I thought he was next to me. Actually, he had had a problem at the start and I was able to take the lead. After that, I tried to avoid making any mistakes so I could be sure of scoring some valuable points. In Race 2, the battle with Gabriele Tarquini was great. That’s why I love motorsport! I couldn’t get past him, but it doesn’t matter. With a 75-point lead with two meetings to go, I have achieved my goals.”
Yvan Muller: “I struggled in free practice yesterday. But after putting in some hard work with my team, I managed to qualify for Q3 and then followed that up with two good races, with plenty of overtaking! My win in Race 2 came from a strategy of protecting my tyres when Gabriele was a little bit quicker. I then tried my luck and, although he put up a good fight, I made it past! Congratulations to Citroën. They deserve this title, because, quite simply, they are the best. Without all the people who work so hard behind us, we couldn’t do any of this.”
Sébastien Loeb: “Even with the long straight, it was difficult to overtake another Citroën out there. It’s been quite a frustrating weekend for me. I’ve lost ground on Yvan and that wasn’t really what I was hoping for. That said, I felt in good rhythm in the races. Congratulations to all the members of the team on this title, which extends a long run of success dating back to 2003.”
Ma Qing Hua: “I’m really disappointed, as we worked really hard to prepare for this meeting. I was happy with my qualifying performance, as I won a place on the front row. But I had a technical problem at the start of Race 1. I couldn’t believe it! In Race 2, I managed to gain a few places, but my tyres were very worn and I lost my rhythm as the laps went on. In any case, I’m very proud to be part of this team and to have contributed to this title. I hope to stay with Citroën for a long time to come!”