- Two weeks after winning the Manufacturers’ World Championship*, Citroën has added the Drivers’ title to its trophy cabinet thanks to José María López
- Suzuka meeting saw Pechito notch up his ninth race win of the season. Sébastien Loeb also made it onto the podium in race one
- José María López is the first Argentinian to win a motorsport World Championship since Juan Manuel Fangio fifty-seven years ago
José María López moved one step closer to glory on Saturday by securing pole position for the first race. One fourth-place finish would have been sufficient to see him crowned FIA WTCC World Champion, but the driver of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC car number 37 wanted to do things in style.
When the lights went out he made his best start of the season, reaching the first turn ahead of Yvan Muller. Sébastien Loeb started from third on the grid but did not get away as well. He finished lap one in fifth, behind Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente.
Racing bumper to bumper, the two Citroëns quickly left the chasing pack behind. A few laps later, Yvan Muller suspected a puncture in one of his rear tyres. His fears were confirmed and the four-time World Champion was forced to withdraw halfway through the race. That effectively settled the Driver’s title race, but the team remained 100% focused on the task at hand. In one car, José María López was closing in on a well-deserved victory, while in the other, Sébastien Loeb continued to battle it out in the pack. The tussle between Chilton and Valente worked to Seb’s advantage, allowing him to slip back into third place with just one lap to go. At the end of the race, the Citroën Total team were able to celebrate with their new champion, dressed in a celebratory sky-blue and white number-37 uniform.
The mechanics were all smiles when they set about preparing the cars for race two. Loeb, Muller and López started from 8th, 9th and 10th on the grid respectively. Yvan Muller made up the most ground on the first bend, sneaking past his rivals on the outside. He was sixth by the end of lap one, ahead of Seb and Pechito.
The three Citroëns were separated by a hair’s breadth when they got stuck behind Hugo Valente. Muller tried his luck on lap five, but the two cars collided and Valente was forced to withdraw. López then took advantage of the slightest of openings to make his way past Loeb. There would be no further change in the race order before the chequered flag, with the three C-Elysée WTCCs finishing fifth, sixth and seventh.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “José María López is a great World Champion, for Citroën, for Argentina and for the FIA WTCC. We are happy and proud to have helped him win the title. He’s a guy who shines as much for his performances as for his human qualities. The Drivers’ title brings further success for our team, after winning the Manufacturers’ World Championship two weeks ago. Over the past quarter of a century, Citroën Racing has developed unique know-how which has allowed it to triumph in rally-raid, the WRC and now the FIA WTCC. This stability has created a cohesion that has proved key to our success in this, our very first season in the discipline.”
José-María López:“It’s an amazing feeling. As ever, the first thing that comes to mind is all the people I need to thank. Thank you to my family, to all those who helped me when things were at their hardest, and to Citroën for choosing me to drive one of their C-Elysées. Thanks, too, to all the engineers and mechanics. Not just the ones who look after my car, because we all work together. It’s really special to have won on one of Ayrton Senna’s favourite circuits. He won two titles here and I am proud to have done the same. It’s also an honour to emulate Juan Manuel Fangio as an Argentinian World Champion. It’s thanks to him that our country is so mad about motorsport and I am proud to represent my nation in the FIA WTCC.”
Sébastien Loeb:“I got off to a terrible start in race one. I pressed the wrong buttons. I was fifth at the start, but it was very difficult to find an opening on this circuit. I stayed in touch with the drivers ahead of me, looking for the slightest opportunity. Eventually, just before the end, one presented itself. It’s great to make it onto the podium again.”
Yvan Muller:This weekend is pretty representative of my season as a whole. Success was sorely lacking. Quite early in race one, I felt that my rear wheels were sliding, and a puncture was confirmed a few laps in. In the second race, I got off to a good start before getting stuck behind Hugo Valente. It wasn’t easy to get past him. I tried an attack and ended up accidentally clipping his car.”
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA