POLE FOR LÓPEZ AS CITROËN SECURE 1-2-3!
– Separated by less than 0.15 of a second, the three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs finished first, second and third in qualifying in Suzuka. Jos� �María López notched up his sixth pole position of the season, ahead of Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb.
– The Argentine’s performance takes him one step closer to the world title. One fourth-place finish in tomorrow’s races will be enough to see him crowned champion.
The FIA WTCC drivers, who are using the “big” 5.807 km track for the first time, were clearly delighted to be plying their trade on one of the world’s leading circuits. José María López clocked an excellent lap time of 2’06’’987 in Friday’s half-hour practice session. Yvan Muller was a little off the pace on Friday, but showed what he could do the following morning by recording the fastest time in each of the other two free practice sessions.
Despite the red flag being brought out during Q1, all three Citroën drivers made it through to the second qualifying session with ease. Q2, too, went off without a hitch for Yvan Muller and José María López, who quickly rose to the top of the timing screens. Sébastien Loeb, however, had to change his tyres after crashing off. Nevertheless, he managed to snatch third place just before the chequered flag!
The nine-time World Rally Champion continued his good form in Q3, going faster than both Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente on his flying lap. A few moments later, José María López did better still. Last out was Yvan Muller, who looked set to eclipse his teammate, but ended up less than a tenth of a second short.
With this, his sixth pole position of the season, Pechito López has moved a little closer to the FIA WTCC title. One fourth-place finish tomorrow would be enough to see him secure the championship crown, regardless of how Yvan Muller does here and in Macao.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
José María López: “It’s fantastic for Citroën to have achieved another treble in qualifying. It shows just how competitive our C-Elysée WTCC is. This pole position was hard-won. I thought that I would do a little better in Q1 and Q2. But just like in Spa, my teammates gave me some work to do. We made a few changes to the setup for Q3, but I made a few little mistakes in the first sector. I gained in confidence from corner to corner and it was in the third sector that I really made the difference. I’m one step closer to the title, but I’m going to continue to approach the weekend as normally as I can. There is still some uncertainty about tomorrow, particularly as far as the weather goes: it could rain.”
Yvan Muller: “I’m really happy with my second place. I was worried after free practice on Friday, as the car wasn’t working as I would have liked. Thanks to some hard work with my team, we managed to turn things round. In Q3, I tried to attack a little more on bend 15, the fastest on the circuit. It didn’t work and I ended up with exactly the same time as in Q2, give or take 2 thousandths of a second! The races are likely to be very competitive: we’ve got the same cars, we work together, and we know each other’s setups. I hope that we will be able to give Citroën a clean sweep, hopefully not in the same order as today, though!”
Sébastien Loeb: “I made it into Q3 by the skin of my teeth. I tried to get into Tiago Monteiro’s slipstream in Q2, but Mehdi Bennani managed to dart in between us before making a mistake. In trying to avoid him, I crashed off and wrecked my tyres. So I had to go to the pits and get them changed. My Q3 lap was pretty good, until my brakes failed at the last chicane. In qualifying, the slightest error can cost you dear, and the tenth of a second I lost probably cost me pole position.”