Two weeks after winning the World Manufacturers’ Championship*, Citroën has added the Drivers’ title to its trophy cabinet thanks to José María López. The Suzuka meeting saw Pechito notch up his ninth race win of the season. Sébastien Loeb also made it onto the podium in race 1.
José María López is the first Argentinian to win a motorsport World Championship since Juan Manuel Fangio fifty-seven years ago.
López had moved one step closer to glory on Saturday by securing pole position for the first race. One fourth-place finish would have been sufficient to see him crowned FIA WTCC World Champion, but the driver of Citroën C-Elysée WTCC n°37 wanted to do things in style.
When the lights went out, he made his best start of the season, reaching the first turn ahead of Yvan Muller. Sébastien Loeb, who started from third on the grid, did not get away well, and finished lap 1 in fifth, behind Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente.
Bumper to bumper, the two Citroëns quickly left the chasing pack for dust. But a few laps later, Yvan Muller suspected a puncture in one of his rear tyres. His fears were confirmed, and the four-time World Champion was forced to withdraw halfway through the race. That effectively settled the Drivers title race, but the team remained 100% focused on the task at hand. In one car, José María López was closing in on a well-deserved victory, while in the other, Sébastien Loeb continued to battle it out in the pack. The tussle between Chilton and Valente worked to Seb’s advantage, allowing him to slip back into third place with just one lap to go.
At the end of the race, the Citroën Total team were able to celebrate with their new champion, all dressed in his famous sky-blue and white number-37 uniform!
All smiles, the mechanics also set about preparing the cars for race 2. Loeb, Muller and López started from 8th, 9th and 10th on the grid respectively. Yvan Muller was the most inspired on the first bend, sneaking past his rivals on the outside. He was sixth by the end of lap 1, ahead of Seb and Pechito.
Separated by a hair’s breadth, the three Citroëns got stuck behind Hugo Valente. Muller tried his luck on lap 5. The two cars collided and Valente was forced to withdraw. López then took advantage of the slightest of openings to make his way past Loeb. There would be no further change in the race order before the chequered flag, with the three C-Elysée WTCCs finishing fifth, sixth and seventh.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “José María López is a great World Champion, for Citroën, for Argentina and for the FIA WTCC! We are happy and proud to have helped him win the title. He’s a guy who shines as much for his performances as for his human qualities. The Drivers’ title brings further success for our team, after winning the Manufacturers’ world championship two weeks ago. Over the past quarter of a century, Citroën Racing has developed unique know-how which has allowed it to triumph in rally-raid, the WRC and now the FIA WTCC. This stability has created a cohesion that has proved key to our success in this, our very first season in the discipline.”
José-María López: “It’s an amazing feeling. As ever, the first thing that comes to mind is all the people I need to thank. Thank you to my family, to all those who helped me when things were at their hardest, and to Citroën for choosing me to drive one of their C-Elysées. Thanks, too, to all the engineers and mechanics. Not just the ones who look after my car, because we all work together. It’s really special to have won on one of Ayrton Senna’s favourite circuits. He won two titles here and I am proud to have done the same. It’s also an honour to emulate Juan Manuel Fangio as an Argentinian World Champion. It’s thanks to him that our country is so mad about motorsport and I am proud to represent my nation in the FIA WTCC.”
Sébastien Loeb: “I got off to a terrible start in race 1. I pressed the wrong buttons! I was fifth at the start, but it was very difficult to find an opening on this circuit. I stayed in touch with the drivers ahead of me, looking for the slightest opportunity. Eventually, just before the end, one presented itself. It’s great to make it onto the podium again.”
Yvan Muller: “This weekend is pretty representative of my season as a whole. Success was sorely lacking. Quite early in race 1, I felt that my rear wheels were sliding, and a puncture was confirmed a few laps in. In the second race, I got off to a good start before getting stuck behind Hugo Valente. It wasn’t easy to get past him. I tried an attack and ended up accidentally clipping his car.”
RACE 11. José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)2. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +8’’4733. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +9’’6934. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC) +10’’4145. Hugo Valente (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +12’’153Fastest lap: José María López (2’09’’279)
RACE 21. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)2. Dusan Borkovic (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +1’’7253. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC) +4’’3604. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +5’’4975. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +6’’1166. José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +6’’3467. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +6’’665Fastest lap: Gabriele Tarquini (2’09’’063)
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: DRIVER STANDINGS1. José-María López: 422 points2. Yvan Muller: 305 pts3. Sébastien Loeb: 275 pts4. Tiago Monteiro: 174 pts5. Norbert Michelisz: 169 pts
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: MANUFACTURER STANDINGS1. Citroën Total: 927 points2. Honda: 649 pts3. Lada: 371 pts
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA.