WTCC: Yvan Muller takes main race win in Motegi – Japan as Lopez wraps up the championship
Yvan Muller and José María López finished first and second in the main race at Motegi (Japan) to claim the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC’s fifth one-two of the season. The result means that the Argentinian is provisional world champion for the third year running, whilst Citroën took another step closer to a sixteenth World Championship title.
Despite the overnight rainfall, the track had dried by the time the sun was high in the Motegi sky. The stiflingly hot and humid conditions nonetheless made conditions difficult for the drivers.
In the opening race, Yvan Muller and José María López started from ninth and tenth positions on the grid. When the lights went out, the Citroën Total drivers moved through the field and up into seventh and eighth places. A few corners later, Yvan also managed to grab sixth place from Tom Chilton. It wasn’t long before Pechito followed suit!
Yvan then tried to find a way past Nick Catsburg. This gave Pechito a chance to close on and overtake his team-mate after a minor coming together. Shortly afterwards, Catsburg’s determined defence was breached and the two team-mates set off in pursuit of Thed Bjork, who suffered the same fate!
Fourth and fifth respectively, López and Muller obtained the best possible result given their starting positions. The scored important points towards both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships.
After the damaged bodywork components were quickly replaced, the two works Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs lined up on the front row of the start grid for the main race.
Pechito made a perfect start to enter the first corner ahead of Yvan. Setting a blistering pace for the rest of the field, the two men wasted little time in moving clear. In truth, the two leaders were very comfortable at the front as they headed towards a one-two finish.
But with two laps to go, the no. 37 Citroën C-Elysée WTCC moved aside to let the no. 68 car past. Certain to win the title by finishing as runner-up, José María López handed victory to his team-mate.
For the first time this season, Yvan Muller therefore crossed the finishing line as the race winner. This enabled him to draw level with Tiago Monteiro in second place in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Second-placed Pechito López scored enough points to claim a third consecutive drivers’ title, as he now has an unassailable 120-point lead.
In the Manufacturers’ standings, Citroën moved a little bit closer to a sixteenth world title, having already won five Cross Country Rally World Cups, eight World Rally Championships and two World Touring Car Championships. The next round, held in Shanghai (24-25 September), should prove decisive!
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “Everything worked well today, with a great fightback from our drivers in the opening reverse-grid race and a one-two finish in the main race. We achieved one of our goals this weekend with José María López, who provisionally retained his World Championship title. Although we still have a few races left to contest together, this is the beginning of the end of a great adventure that we started almost three years ago. In deciding to let Yvan win today, Pechito showed the team spirit that drives us all. We are now going to prepare for the next race, which should enable us to secure the Manufacturers’ title. We’d also like to finish first and second in the Drivers’ standings. Yvan drew level on points with Tiago Monteiro today, so he is ideally placed to finish as runner-up!”
José María López: “I must be one of the happiest men in the world tonight! When you watch motorsport on television, maybe you think that drivers are cold and aloof, but I can assure you that I’m feeling very emotional right now. I’ve had three fantastic seasons with Citroën Racing and I think a lot of drivers would love to be in my shoes. Competing in the WTCC has been a great opportunity for me in my career, but I am most indebted to the team. As regards my gesture for Yvan, it was a way of showing the respect that I have for him. I took the decision on my own, but it wasn’t easy to give up a victory. It’s always difficult to win races and I said to myself that it would be hard not to hear the Argentinian national anthem on the podium, especially on the day I win the title. But I thought that I might not have too many other opportunities to do it. I’ll keep fighting in the last few races – apart from anything else, we still have work to do to win the Manufacturers’ title.”
Yvan Muller: “First of all, I would like to congratulate Pechito on this third title. He deserves it because he is currently the best driver in the category. In addition to being a great driver, he’s also a great man. Obviously, I hadn’t asked him to let me past, because that’s not how I like to win races. But he did what I have done in the past, most recently in Argentina when I decided to help him. There is genuine mutual respect, built on our shared determination to ensure Citroën wins. Now that I am level on points with Tiago, I’m going to try and finish as runner-up in the championship.”