The competitors in the FIA WTCC are gearing up for back-to-back meetings in Central Europe, with the upcoming Hungarian round to be followed a week later by a visit to Slovakia.
After a successful start to the season, the Citroën Total team are now faced with very different circuits than those they encountered in Morocco and France.
With two race wins to his name already, José-María López leads the World Championship standings with 85 points, closely followed by his teammates Sébastien Loeb (73 points) and Yvan Muller (65).
The packed early-season schedule leaves little respite for the FIA WTCC teams. After returning from the Paul Ricard Circuit, Citroën Racing’s mechanics had only three days to heal the battle wounds of the three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs. The cars have already set off for the third round of the World Championship in Hungary.
“This is our first opportunity to take stock of where we are,” says Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton. “Having finished first, second and third in one race, and first and second in the other three, the results we have achieved on paper have surpassed our expectations. I have to say that the team has adapted very quickly to this new discipline, even when there have been unexpected changes in the weather or the race situation. The other thing that has been very pleasing is that our three drivers have regularly won races. None of them has really got the upper hand over his teammates. That sense of team spirit and togetherness remains intact. We are now focusing on the challenges ahead: we’ll be racing on circuits that we don’t know as well as our rivals do, and those rivals seem to be improving fast.”
ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASONMade famous by the Formula 1 Grand Prix it has hosted since 1986, the Hungaroring has been an unmissable part of the FIA WTCC since 2011. Last year, more than 50,000 spectators flooded the stands to cheer on the drivers, with national icon Norbert Michelisz foremost in their affections. “I’m really looking forward to this meeting because I’ve been told the atmosphere is absolutely incredible,” says Sébastien Loeb, who is no stranger to big crowds. “Along with Argentina, this will probably be the round with the most people in attendance. I find that really motivating,” adds José-María López
Yvan Muller, meanwhile, seems to find the Hungaroring more inspiring than most. At the three meetings he has contested on the circuit’s 4381 metres of dusty, bumpy tarmac, the man from Alsace has always secured pole position, before going on to win the first race. In 2011, he even pulled off the impressive feat of winning both races!
“I’ve already driven a bit on this circuit: in an F3000 a few years back, and last summer in the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, at the very start of the car’s development,” says Sébastien Loeb. “It’s quite narrow, with a lot of technically demanding sequences. I think it’s quite a nice circuit, but I don’t know if there will be a lot of overtaking opportunities.”
“The last time I raced in Budapest was in 2006, in GP2,” recalls José-María López. “It’s a circuit with lots of twists and turns, so our tyres are going to suffer, and we’ll have to manage them carefully all weekend. That will be the key, especially if the weather’s very hot.”
A SHOW IN BUDAPEST TO KICK OFF THE WEEKENDOn Thursday 1 May, the day before they venture onto the Hungaroring track for the first time, the Citroen Racing drivers and the C-Elysée WTCC will take part in the “Great Run”, a roadshow to be held in the streets of the Hungarian capital. Taking in both banks of the Danube and passing in front of the famous Hungarian parliament building, the circuit will visit the two parts of the city, Buda and Pest. A big crowd is expected for this event, the traditional curtain-raiser to what promises to be a great weekend for car lovers!
THE PROGRAMMEAs for all meetings except Moscow, Friday’s free practice session will take place from 12.30 p.m. to 1 p.m. On Saturday, the two other practice sessions are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 12 noon, before qualifying gets under way at 2.30 p.m. The two races will be held in quick succession on Sunday afternoon, at 1.35 and 2.35 p.m.