TERMAS DE RÍO HONDO (06-08 MARCH 2015)
The Citroën Total WTCC team has started the season in the bes t possible manner, with its drivers taking the top four spots in qualifying!
- José María López was not about to let anyone else snatch pole position on his home turf. The reigning World Champion was followed by his teammates Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua, in that order.
- The two races will take place tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.
It is the middle of summer in Argentina, but the FIA WTCC drivers were nevertheless greeted by rain and fog at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit. On Friday morning, the first free practice session got underway on a track that was still damp in many places. Sébastien Loeb negotiated the tricky conditions with aplomb to clock the fastest time.
Today, however, the sun was shining. The other two free practice sessions enabled the Citroën Racing team to fine-tune the setup of the C-Elysée WTCCs. José María López got quicker with every appearance, and soon emerged as the favourite for pole position.
To achieve that goal, however, he would need to make it through the three qualifying stages. Q1 began in stifling heat, with the track temperature up at 55°C! The five Citroëns all made it into the top 12, with Mehdi Bennani producing the best performance. The tension was cranked up a notch in Q2, with the drivers having just 10 minutes to earn a place in the top five. The red flag made an appearance on the very first lap after Bennani crashed off. Ma Qing Hua then produced a sensational performance at the end of the session to beat José María López’s fastest time. Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb also made it through to Q3.
Loeb was the first to go. Alas, he forfeited his chances of pole position by running onto the grass at bend n°11. Yvan Muller produced a very creditable lap, but José María López went quicker. Ma Qing Hua was the last man out on track, but the Chinese driver could manage only fourth, which meant the Argentine supporters were not disappointed!
So race 1 will see the Citroën Total WTCC team drivers – López, Muller, Loeb and Ma – starting from the first two rows of the grid in that order.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAYYves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “We couldn’t have dreamed of a better result to start the season! It’s a great reward for the team to see their four cars in the top four places. It suggests that we took the right decisions this winter, and that we have a good chance of carrying on where we left off in 2014. Pechito produced one of those perfect laps that only he can produce, and he showed that he is determined to defend his title! We have smiles on our faces, but we’re keeping our feet on the ground. There are still two races to run. The conditions will be tough, particularly for the drivers and for the tyres.”
José-María López: “Who wouldn’t be happy to start the season like that?! It wasn’t easy, and we have worked hard on the setup of the cars since Friday morning. Special thanks go to my engineer, who was very quick to react to the changes in the track. We’ll have to start all over tomorrow to get the best possible result. Of course it would be special to win. There’s nothing quite like winning on your home patch… In any case, I feel under a lot less pressure than last year.”
Yvan Muller: “I have mixed feelings about my second place. I’m satisfied insofar as I was 9th in Q1. I wasn’t happy with the way the car was handling, though, and we had a few problems finding the right balance. Second is good, but first is better! To come out on top tomorrow, I’ll have to get a better start than Pechito and then make sure I keep him behind me. Believe me, that’s no easy task.”
Sébastien Loeb: “This is a really positive result for Citroën, particularly as all the manufacturers’ cars start the season with the same weight. I wanted to challenge for pole position and I attacked hard in Q3. Unfortunately, I lost control of my rear wheels on the fastest bend on the circuit and ran onto the grass. Oh well, I had to try!”
Ma Qing Hua: “Q1 and Q2 went according to plan and we made regular improvements. I was hoping to do better in Q3, but I made a little mistake on bend n°5. Anyway, it’s not a bad start to the season. I’m up with the pace and I feel really confident with my car. The races are bound to be eventful. There are lots of overtaking opportunities here!”
QUALIFYING RESULTS1. José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’45’’461
2. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’46’’701
3. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’47’’061
4. Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 1’47’’203
5. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC) 1’46’’633
6. Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)