The final European round of this year’s World Touring Car Championship, held at Spa-Francorchamps, was dominated by Citroën Racing.
- With one pole position, one race win and one second place, Yvan Muller was the highest-scoring driver of the weekend.
- José-María López, meanwhile, scored just two points fewer. After finishing as runner-up in race 1, the Argentine driver staged a magnificent recovery to clinch victory in race 2.
- Sébastien Loeb also added to his impressive collection of podium spots with a third-placed finish.
The sun was shining brightly for today’s action at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Encouraged by the blue sky, a large crowd flocked into the paddock and stands of the legendary Belgian venue.
Having qualified in the top three positions, Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and José-María López had an excellent chance of success in race 1. When the red lights went out, the three C-Elysée WTCCs began well, reaching the La Source hairpin in the same order in which they started.
José-María López made his first move on Sébastien Loeb in just the second lap. The nine-time World Rally Champion held him off with authority, but their tussle allowed Yvan Muller to open up something of a lead. Far from losing heart, Pechito tried to get past Seb on several more occasions, but each time to no avail!By the halfway mark, the gap between Yvan Muller and his two teammates had widened irretrievably. Still not resigned to finishing third, López saved his tyres for one last attack, which he sprang in the very last lap of the race! Quicker at the Raidillon, the Argentine driver surprised Loeb at the Les Combes turn.
The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs, then, notched up their second 1-2-3 of the season! In the fourth Citroën car, Ma Qing Hua crossed the finish line in eleventh place, just outside the points, having had to cope with a loose windscreen throughout the second part of the race.
While the first race was lively, the second promised to provide an even greater spectacle, with the top ten from qualifying starting in reverse order on the grid. José-María López started from eighth position, sandwiched between Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller. Ma Qing Hua once again set off from the seventh row.
Despite a turbulent first few turns, there were no casualties in the pack. At the end of lap 1, Tom Coronel was leading from Monteiro, Chilton, Bennani, Tarquini, López, Muller, Valente and Loeb. Having adopted a streamlined aerodynamic setup to boost his speed, José-María López made his intentions clear from the off. Already fourth by the time the cars passed the pits for the second time, he overtook Chilton and Monteiro to move up into second place on lap 5. Two laps later, he went past the leader just before the Raidillon!
Yvan Muller was no slouch either, exhibiting a good deal of panache as he climbed into second spot with three laps to go. After losing a little time trying to find a way past Valente, Sébastien Loeb hauled himself into the top 5. Ma Qing Hua, meanwhile, suffered engine problems and was forced to abandon the race after four laps.
With a 1-2-3 in qualifying, another in race 1, and first and second spots in race 2, Citroën Racing achieved a near-perfect points haul to put towards their Teams World Championship tally. Their lead over the second-placed team now stands at over 200 points.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAYYves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “As a Belgian, seeing my team produce results like that at Spa-Francorchamps is obviously a great feeling. I think that we can be proud of the way we won the races today. The Raidillon poses a unique challenge, which has seen us come up against some technical issues that we hadn’t encountered before. The team put in some excellent work on the car to reduce those issues, and our drivers did the rest by harnessing all the potential of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. We couldn’t have hoped for a better result to round off the European season. We’ve got a long break now, but we can’t wait to continue our excellent season around the world.”
Yvan Muller: “After winning pole position, I owed it to myself to get off to a good start in race 1. I was cautious on the first lap, and then attacked a little more to make sure I was out of slipstreaming range. Pechito and Seb were going at it hammer and tongs behind me, which made things a little easier for me. My start in race 2 wasn’t great, but I didn’t drop any places. It was a tough race, but I fought hard to overtake my rivals and climb into second place. Our C-Elysée WTCC was better than ever this weekend, and our speed at the Raidillon and Blanchimont enabled us to attack at Les Combes and the Bus Stop.”
José-María López: “I couldn’t relax for a second in the first race! Sébastien was really quick in the second and third sectors and my tyres were wearing fast. I put everything into the last lap, and fortunately it worked. That second place was important for me, but the most memorable part was the 1-2-3 for the team! In race 2, I was involved in a real scrap with Valente over the first few corners. We touched, but the car was OK, and I realised I was quicker than the others. I did a lot of overtaking at the Bus Stop, and I must say that all my competitors were very sporting. It’s an incredible win for me! Even though Yvan has closed the gap by two points, it’s still been a good weekend for me as far as the overall standings are concerned. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: despite the gap, I’m definitely not home and dry yet.”
Sébastien Loeb: “I enjoyed the first race… until the last lap! Pechito was so quick at the Raidillon that I knew he was going to be a constant threat. I shut him off every time, but he managed to get past anyway! In the second race, I didn’t pick up any places at the start and I lost a lot of time behind Valente. When I did make it past him, the gaps had already opened up and I couldn’t do any better than fifth.”
Ma Qing Hua: “It wasn’t a dream day for me. I had moved up a few places at the start of race 1. But after a few laps, my windscreen came loose and I couldn’t see the track very clearly anymore. I had a good battle with Chilton and Borkovic, but in the end I was just outside the points. In race 2, I had to pull out due to an engine problem.”
RESULTS AND STANDINGSRACE 11. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)2. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)3. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)4. Gianni Morbidelli (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)5. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)6. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)7. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)8. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)9. Dusan Borkovic (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)10. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)11. Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)Fastest lap: Yvan Muller (2’26’’579)
RACE 21. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)2. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)3. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)4. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)5. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)6. Gianni Morbidelli (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)7. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)8. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)9. Hugo Valente (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)10. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)Fastest lap: José-María López (2’26’’679)
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: DRIVER STANDINGS1. José-María López: 255 points2. Yvan Muller: 216 pts3. Sébastien Loeb: 190 pts4. Tiago Monteiro: 125 pts5. Gabriele Tarquini: 105 pts12. Ma Qing Hua: 33 pts
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: MANUFACTURER STANDINGS1. Citroën Total: 597 points2. Honda: 392 pts3. Lada: 202 pts