FURTHER WORLD TITLES FOR CITROËN AND JOSÉ MARÍA LÓPEZ
Concluding the 2015 motorsport season, the FIA Prize-Giving ceremony saw this year’s World Champions receive their official awards, including José María López and Citroën. Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal, took time to talk to us about the successful defences of these two WTCC titles and recent news.
Like last year, Citroën monopolised the FIA WTCC World Championship podium…
“You could even say it’s a shame that the podium doesn’t have four steps, as we secured a clean sweep of the top-four places, with José María López, Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua! It’s a historic result, something that has never been achieved before in the WTCC or the PSA Peugeot Citroën group. In winning 21 races out of 24, the team set a new record for the total number of points scored in one season. In the Drivers’ championship, Pechito López also broke or equalled several records. It cannot be overemphasized, however, that it’s a real team effort. There are the drivers, the engineers and the mechanics, but there are also people behind the scenes, whose work often goes unseen. It is equally worth pointing out that this is Citroën’s fifteenth world title, after those obtained in cross-country rallying and the WRC.”
The recent FIA World Motor Sport Council introduced changes in the WTCC regulations. How do you feel about these new features?
“Some of the changes, like the MAC3 (Manufacturers Against the Clock time-trial concept) or the concept of an opening race and a main race are at least attempts to explore new ideas. But we’ll have to wait and see if, after a few meetings, these changes really add anything in terms of media coverage and interest, excitement or suspense. We are obviously not in agreement as regards the new rules for weight compensation, which have been drawn up principally to penalise the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs. The system in force for the last few years seemed to be satisfactory to the various parties. But instead of complaining, I would rather see this change as yet further evidence of the exceptionally high standards set by the team, the car and the drivers. We are now concentrating fully on the 2016 season; everyone is motivated to work even harder, stay ahead of our rivals and keep on winning. We’ll certainly be looking to defend our titles.”
The last few weeks have seen many reactions to the end of Citroën and Sébastien Loeb’s working relationship. What can you say to the fans who don’t seem to understand?
“Intense media scrutiny and the search for sensational stories can sometimes overstate and distort reactions. Seb wasn’t ‘fired’, as has been suggested in some quarters. He is stiIl part of the PSA Peugeot Citroën group and his new challenge with Peugeot Sport is not some sort of plan B, in view of his exceptional career. He chose to commit himself fully to the Rally Dakar adventure and we’ll be following his progress with great interest! There’s no denying that this undoubtedly marks the end of a great chapter in the history of Citroën Racing. Our sense of nostalgia will shortly give way to recollection of some great memories. On a personal level, I’m proud and happy to have worked alongside Seb at various stages of his career with Citroën.”
The PSA Peugeot Citroën group recently announced the appointment of Jean-Marc Finot as Director of the Motorsport Centre of Excellence. What impact will this have on your role?
“Effective on 1 January 2016, Jean-Marc Finot will oversee the grouping together of the group’s motorsport activities for the three brands. By September 2016, we will all be working at the Versailles Satory site. The motorsport entries will then be managed by Xavier Mestelan for DS Performance and me for Citroën Racing. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Xavier on his appointment. We have experienced and enjoyed some great times together, both in WRC and WTCC, and his expertise shall be invaluable on the Formula E circuits. I will also hold a role as representative of the PSA Group on motorsport development matters. That means I will be the point of contact with the governing bodies, the championship promoters and the other manufacturers in working groups on category development and the future of motorsport. Output from this forward-looking approach will feed into discussions at PSA Peugeot Citroën about the group’s current and future involvement in motorsport.”