THE 2016 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP BEGINS AT THE PAUL RICARD CIRCUIT,a happy hunting ground for the Citroën Total. For the final season of its track racing adventure, the two-time World Champion team is lining up two Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs on the grid, with José María López and Yvan Muller the men at the wheel. The Argentine and the Frenchman, who between them have claimed six of the last eight titles awarded in the competition, will be looking to continue their winning streak!
As in 2014, the FIA World Touring Car Championship gets under way at the majestic Paul Ricard Circuit. After a four-month hiatus, which the teams spent fine-tuning their cars, the moment of truth has come!
By winning 92% of the pole positions and 81% of the races contested over the last two seasons, Citroën Total has made itself the team to beat. As the aggressive new livery of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC shows, the team will be fighting hard to retain that status in 2016!
To do so, they will have to overcome regulations designed to handicap the reigning World Champion manufacturer. The Citroën cars will carry 80 kg of ballast in the first two meetings of the season, before a rebalancing based on results. Other changes that will force the team to adapt its strategy include the reverse grid for the opening race and the MAC3 (“Manufacturers Against the Clock”) contest to be held after qualifying.
Over the winter, the engineers and drivers worked on some subtle technical improvements. The most visible are in the car’s aerodynamics, with a redesigned front end. Citroën Racing is also counting on its finely honed knowledge of the car and the range of setups available, as well as the healthy rivalry between José María López and Yvan Muller, to help it fulfil its potential. More than ever, team spirit will be crucial to success!
Team spirit is a quality shared by the drivers of the three cars competing for Sébastien Loeb Racing. In his second season in a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, Mehdi Bennani will be setting the standard for Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier. All three will be competing in the WTCC Trophy, which is for private drivers only.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “With several big-name drivers switching teams and a new manufacturer in the mix, this FIA WTCC season looks set to be open and closely contested. We are delighted about that, but we will still be aiming to claim as many wins as we possibly can and to retain our Manufacturers and Drivers titles! Our team also has a new look, with two official Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs and three private cars. Alongside Pechito and Yvan, we will be counting on Mehdi, Tom and Grégoire to notch up plenty of points, both in MAC3 and in the races. Results in testing aren’t the be-all and end-all, but it is worth noting that we did clock the seven fastest times over eight sessions in Vallelunga. That was doubtless no accident, but testament to the work the whole team put in over the winter. I hope we leave the Paul Ricard Circuit with a convincing result: in other words, a win!”
José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 37): “I’m really excited about beginning a new season. It’s one of my favourite times of the year! After all the work we have done in recent months, the slate has been wiped clean and we can’t wait to see how we measure up against the competition. The only thing I know for sure is that we have put in some great work. But we’ll have to wait for qualifying, when everyone will put on new tyres at the same time, to get a real idea of the hierarchy. The 80kg of ballast will certainly be a big handicap, and might cost us over a second a lap on some circuits. It’s going to be tough, but we’re prepared for it. I am also really happy to be starting the season in France. It’s like a second home meeting for me! The team has fond memories of Paul Ricard, having won all four races we have competed in here. My win in 2014, when I recovered from last place, remains one of the best of my career!”
Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 68): “I haven’t competed for four months. That’s too long for me! I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of my Citroën C-Elysée WTCC for a racing weekend. We don’t know yet how good our rivals are, but we will definitely suffer during the first two meetings. Any predictions at this stage are based solely on speculation. A win might be hard to achieve, but we need to do the best we can and see how the pecking order stands. Like the whole team, I am always enthusiastic about coming back to Paul Ricard. In the eighties, I used to come and watch the F1 Grand Prix from the stands, and this is where I took part in my first single-seater race back in 1988! Since then, I think I’ve driven on every track layout and in every kind of car!”