The Citroën Total team remains unbeaten in FIA WTCC qualifying this season. This time, it was José María López who claimed pole position, on a day where he looked in control from start to finish. Yvan Muller finished eighth, meaning he will start the opening race from the second row, just behind another Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, driven by private competitor Mehdi Bennani.
Upon their arrival at the Hungaroring, the Citroën drivers found a circuit with a new look. The track has been entirely resurfaced, with new, gentler rumblestrips and wider overtaking areas, forcing the team to make considerable alterations to the setup of their cars during the three free practice sessions.
Despite the threatening sky and an increasingly strong wind, conditions remained clement when qualifying began. In Q1, José María López took the lead, becoming the first driver to dip under the 1m47s barrier. Yvan Muller had a tougher time of it. He skidded on his first flying lap on new tyres, clocking a time that put him in twelfth position and thus qualifying for Q2 by the skin of his teeth!
The four-time World Champion would not hit his stride in the second stage either, and had to settle for the eighth-fastest time, putting him third on the grid for the opening race. In a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC prepared by Sébastien Loeb Racing, Mehdi Bennani finished tenth and will thus start the first race from pole.
Second-placed José María López was the only Citroën driver to qualify for Q3. He produced a near-perfect lap in that third and final session to secure his sixteenth FIA WTCC pole position, six tenths of a second clear of the runner-up, whose car was 80kg lighter!
With qualifying complete, José María López, Yvan Muller and Mehdi Bennani turned their attention to the MAC3 time trial. The three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs clocked the best time over the two laps, but were relegated to second after Bennani went out of bounds on a bend.
The two races will take place at 2.15 and 5.15 p.m. tomorrow, when rain is highly likely!
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAYYves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “Adapting the setup of the cars to the new track conditions was harder than anticipated. It took us a little time to understand how the car would react, particularly as the grip changed constantly throughout the day. Pechito managed to make the most of his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC’s potential and went out and won pole. Yvan had a more difficult afternoon, but he is still well-placed to go out and score big tomorrow. In MAC3, Mehdi made a little mistake, but he drove really well. I can already announce that he will be in the lineup once again in Marrakech, in front of his home crowd!”
José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 37): “I won this sixteenth pole position because I had the best car out there. Once again, I must thank the entire Citroën Total team for their work. When I put fresh tyres on in qualifying, I immediately feel good. All that remained was to avoid making any mistakes! I felt completely confident in Q3 and that’s why I was able to pick up the best time. I’m on pole for the main race, which means I’ll start the opening race from tenth. Obviously, it’s never easy to overtake here, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!”
Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 68): “I can’t be satisfied with my performance in qualifying. I never found a balance that suited me. At the start of free practice, my car was oversteering a lot. We gradually got rid of that, but this afternoon, it was understeering considerably. It’s hard to understand why. It can probably be put down to a change in the track that worked against out setup. I’m going to do my best tomorrow. I’ve got a good position on the starting grid for the first race and I will be looking to get a good result for the team.”
RESULTS AND STANDINGSQUALIFYING1. José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)2. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)3. Rob Huff (Honda Civic WTCC)4. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)5. Thed Bjork (Volvo S60 WTCC)8. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)10. Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)11. Tom Chilton (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)15. Grégoire Demoustier (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)