WTCC, A win for Loeb despite the downpour

With rain falling throughout the day at the Slovakia Ring, the 7th and 8th races of the FIA WTCC were disrupted by the weather.

- The first race was stopped before the finish due to adverse track conditions. Sébastien Loeb, who had got the better of José-María López at the start, notched up his second race win of the season.

- As the showers intensified in the late afternoon, the second race was cancelled.

Unlike qualifying, which took place in blazing sunshine, the races at the Slovakia Ring always looked like being a particularly wet affair. Heavy showers soaked the track from mid-morning onwards. The Citroën Total mechanics adapted the setup of the C-Elysée WTCCs accordingly, in time for the first race at 1.15 p.m.

Starting from pole position, José-María López fluffed his start, whereas Sébastien Loeb got off to a flyer and was leading by the first corner. López was just about hanging on to second position, ahead of Norbert Michelisz. Yvan Muller also found himself in trouble when the red lights went out, dropping down to fourth. He then picked up a drive-through penalty for moving before the start.With better visibility than his rivals, Sébastien Loeb was able to open up a lead over José-María López. After serving his penalty, Yvan Muller rejoined the race in 14th position. He provided some entertainment in the chasing pack by overtaking first Borkovic, then Bennani, Munnich and Valente.

This brilliant recovery was cut short, however, when the safety car was brought out. There was simply too much water on the track, and the officials decided to bring the race to a halt by raising the red flag after 9 of the planned 11 laps. As more than 75% of the full distance had been completed, full points were awarded.

After a brief period of respite, the showers returned with a vengeance in the late afternoon. Race 2, scheduled for 5.45 p.m., was cancelled just a few minutes before the start.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAYYves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “Seb got off to an exceptional start and that’s what earned him his second win of the season. Pechito didn’t take any risks, knowing that second place would still stand him in good stead in the championship. Yvan’s chances, however, evaporated at the start. The rain had become heavier and heavier and the race could not reasonably continue, so the race officials did the right thing. The decision to cancel race two was also understandable. We saw all afternoon how hard the track was to drive on, and a race contested in those conditions wouldn’t have been much of a sporting spectacle.”

Sébastien Loeb: “Pechito was very strong from the start of the weekend and I didn’t think I would be able to beat him! I got off to an excellent start and was leading by the first corner. As I had the best visibility, I was able to attack to open up a bit of a gap. Then the rain got heavier and it became very dangerous. The grip was changing hugely from one lap to the next and drivers were aquaplaning almost everywhere. It was a good decision to bring out the safety car – I was even struggling to keep up with it – and then to stop the race. This win gives me valuable points and a boost to my confidence after a difficult weekend at the Hungaroring.”

José-María López: “I didn’t get a good start. It’s really been a weakness for me all season, and I have to keep working hard to improve. But in those conditions, second place was a good result. I tried to attack to keep up the pressure on Seb, but I had trouble anticipating the aquaplaning because I couldn’t see where the big puddles were. I think the race had to be stopped. It was impossible to drive in those conditions.”

Yvan Muller: “I made a mistake at the start. My car moved forward a metre, then I stopped, before setting off again when the red lights went out. I knew I was going to get a drive-through, and I didn’t attack until I received the penalty. I rejoined the pack and managed to gain a few places and pick up a point. The officials made the right decision in stopping the first race and cancelling the second one.”

STANDINGSRACE 11. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +1’’1053. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC) +2’’4354. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +4’’0815. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +5’’2056. Gianni Morbidelli (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +6’’0267. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC) +6’’9608. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC) +7’’4109. Rob Huff (Lada Granta 1.6T) +8’’35910. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +9’’457Fastest lap: Sébastien Loeb (2’18’’193)

RACE 2Cancelled

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: DRIVER STANDINGS1. José-María López: 138 points2. Sébastien Loeb: 113 pts3. Yvan Muller: 109 pts4. Tiago Monteiro: 71 pts5. Gabriele Tarquini: 52 pts

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: MANUFACTURER STANDINGS1. Citroën Total: 323 points2. Honda: 204 pts3. Lada: 131 pts