The FIA WTCC returns to Central Europe this weekend for the 7th and 8th races of the season at the Slovakia RingWith five race wins so far this season, the Citroen C-Elysée WTCCs are facing increasingly stiff competition
Argentinian driver José-María López leads the World Championship standings with 115 points, followed by teammates Yvan Muller (105 points) and Sébastien Loeb (84 points)
From Morocco to Slovakia, via France and Hungary, the first third of the World Touring Car Championship will have been completed in the space of just five short weeks. Five weeks marked by plenty of positive action for Citroën Total, which has seen wins for its drivers José-María López (Marrakech 1 and Paul Ricard 2), Sébastien Loeb (Marrakech 2) and Yvan Muller (Paul Ricard 1 and Hungaroring 1).
As soon as the Hungarian meeting came to a close, the team turned its attention to preparing its three Citroen C-Elysée WTCCs for the Slovakia Ring. Just a three-hour drive from the Hungaroring, and forty kilometres or so from the capital, Bratislava, this 5,922-metre track offers a nice variety of challenges, with long straight sections, fast corners and technically-demanding series of twists and turns.
“There will certainly be more overtaking opportunities than at the Hungaroring,” hopes Yves Matton, Citroen Racing’s Team Principal. “We think the races at the Slovakia Ring will be very competitive, for several reasons. Having begun the development of their 2014 models later than we did, our rivals are now improving fast. Meeting after meeting, we are seeing the gaps between the teams narrowing, as one would expect. This process has been amplified by the introduction of the compensation weight system, which has allowed the other teams to shed 60 kg of ballast from their cars. Finally, this is our first time on this circuit, whereas our competitors know it well. We will have to put in a flawless performance to extend our successful run.”
The circuit is also brand new for José-María López, who has never raced here before. Yvan Muller, however, was here in 2012 and 2013 for the WTCC’s first two visits to Slovakia. With “only” two second-place finishes in race 2 to show for his efforts, the four-time World Champion has not been especially successful at the circuit.
Sébastien Loeb, in contrast, has already won at the Slovakia Ring, coming out on top in an FIA GT Series race here last year. “The circuit is very different from the Hungaroring. With fast bends leading into long straight sections, aerodynamics will have a big role to play,” explains Seb. “We’ll have real opportunities to overtake by slipstreaming. There are also some very technically-demanding sections, requiring plenty of braking, which are tricky to negotiate and tough on the tyres. We’ll have all that to think about and deal with. On a more personal note, I’m hoping to get back on the podium to make up some of the ground I lost in Hungary.”
The Hungaroring meeting saw Sébastien Loeb cede his second place in the overall standings to Yvan Muller. By scoring more points than any other driver at both Paul Ricard and the Hungaroring, Yvan has almost cancelled out his zero-point weekend in Marrakech. He is now just ten points off Pechito López, who has been the team’s most consistent driver since the start of the season.
The first free practice session will take place on Friday from 12.15 to 12.45pm. The two remaining sessions are scheduled for Saturday at 9am and 11.50am. Qualifying will begin at 2pm, and the two races will be held on Sunday at 1.15pm and 5.45pm.
MA QING HUA PREPARES FOR ACTION
Ma Qing Hua was at Citroen Racing’s technical centre in Versailles this week, actively preparing for his FIA WTCC debut, which is scheduled for the Moscow Raceway meeting on 6-8 June. After meetings with his engineers and a first drive in his race car, the Chinese driver will complete a test session in mid-May.