After clocking the best time of the three free practice sessions, the Citroen C-Elysee WTCCs also dominated the top places in qualifying.
- At the Moulay El Hassan circuit in Marrakech, Argentinian driver Jose-Maria Lopez gave Citroen Racing its first pole position in FIA WTCC.
- Not to be outdone by his teammates, Sebastien Loeb is already putting in some astonishing performances. The nine-time World Rally Champion recorded the second best time. Yvan Muller will start from fourth on the grid.
Before getting to qualifying, the World Touring Car Championship drivers had three sessions of free practice to prepare. On Friday afternoon, Yvan Muller was the quickest, ahead of Jose-Maria Lopez and Sebastien Loeb.
On Saturday, Sebastien Loeb caused a sensation by setting the fastest time in the first session. Pechito Lopez only completed five laps before a run-in with a rumble strip damaged the transmission of his Citroen C-Elysee WTCC. By the end of the morning, the Argentine was reassured, after clocking the second-fastest time in the final free practice session, just 63 thousandths of a second behind Yvan Muller.
At 2 p.m., as the temperature climbed above 30°C, the competitors set off for their first qualifying session. In their very first run, the Citroën C-Elysee WTCCs put in performances good enough to earn them a place in the top 12. Q2 followed much the same script, allowing all three Citroen cars to line up for Q3.
The first of the Citroen drivers to take to the track for his single flying lap was Yvan Muller. He drove aggressively, but cut across the first chicane on the long back straight. Two minutes later, Jose-Maria Lopez pushed just as hard and outdid his teammate with a time of 1’43’’730. After recording the best performance in Q2, Sebastien Loeb was the last to take his chance. Despite being faster than Pechito over the first two sectors, the man from Alsace fell 115 thousandths of a second short of pole position.
At the end of the session, the officials cancelled Yvan Muller’s time and demoted him to fourth position. Lopez and Loeb will therefore share the front row of the grid for race 1. With the grid reversed for the second race, the Citroen drivers will start from 7th (Muller), 9th (Loeb) and 10th (Lopez) places.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroen Racing: “Above all, I want to thank the whole team for the work they have done to prepare for this new chapter in the history of Citroën Racing. There was a lot of pressure on us and we were impatient to get to this first meeting to see how our performance ranked against the competition. We have made a good start, but we’re already thinking about tomorrow. Obviously, we’ll be aiming for victory, but I’m not forgetting that we are inexperienced with rolling starts. On a street circuit, lined with concrete walls, we cannot take anything for granted. Humility will always be the watchword for our team.”
Jose-Maria Lopez: “I’m proud to have earned this first pole position for Citroën and I want to thank everybody for the effort they’ve put in over the last few weeks. This circuit is really difficult. This morning, even without going flat out, I went over a rumble strip and did a bit of damage to the car. I knew my result in qualifying would depend on how many risks I took, particularly in the third sector, where I was a little bit slower in Q1 and Q2. It was there that I really pushed to improve my time. It wasn’t easy to know how hard I could push, particularly as the track was new to me. I want to savour this moment before thinking about tomorrow. We’ve got two 14-lap races. A lot of things can happen, particularly with the reverse grid for the second race.”
Sebastien Loeb: “After clocking the best time in Q2, I definitely went into Q3 with pole position as my goal. We tried everything to go for pole, but I wasn’t the quickest out there today. All the same, I’m satisfied to be within a tenth of a second of my teammates. I couldn’t wait for my first WTCC race! We now know that the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC is quick, and all three of us are at the front of the grid, so it’s a really positive result for the team. “
Yvan Muller: “On my Q3 lap, I made a mistake on corner n°9. I braked too hard, the front wheels locked and I skidded. I went over the other side of the rumble strip, so it was only fair that my time was cancelled. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but I’m not disappointed either. Last year I didn’t do well in qualifying here either and it didn’t stop me finishing the year as World Champion!”
RESULTS – QUALIFYING
1. Jose-Maria Lopez (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC): 1’43’’7302. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC): 1’43’’7483. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet Cruze WTCC): 1’44’’8644. Yvan Muller (Citroen C-Elysee WTCC) – no time5. Dusan Borkovic (Chevrolet Cruze WTCC) – no time–6. René Munnich (Chevrolet Cruze WTCC): 1’45’’5417. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC): 1’45’’8918. Nobert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC): 1’46’’1659. Mehdi Bennani (Honda Civic WTCC): 1’46’’22710. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet Cruze WTCC): 1’46’’331