VICTORY FOR YVAN MULLER AS JOSÉ MARÍA LÓPEZ CLAIMS TITLE*!
Despite the overnight rainfall, the track had dried by the time the sun was high in the Motegi sky. The stiflingly hot and humid conditions nonetheless made conditions difficult for the drivers.
In the opening race, Yvan Muller and José María López started from ninth and tenth positions on the grid. When the lights went out, the Citroën Total drivers moved through the field and up into seventh and eighth places. A few corners later, Yvan also managed to grab sixth place from Tom Chilton. It wasn’t long before Pechito followed suit!
Yvan then tried to find a way past Nick Catsburg. This gave Pechito a chance to close on and overtake his team-mate after a minor coming together. Shortly afterwards, Catsburg’s determined defence was breached and the two team-mates set off in pursuit of Thed Bjork, who suffered the same fate!
Fourth and fifth respectively, López and Muller obtained the best possible result given their starting positions. The scored important points towards both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships.
After the damaged bodywork components were quickly replaced, the two works Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs lined up on the front row of the start grid for the main race.
Pechito made a perfect start to enter the first corner ahead of Yvan. Setting a blistering pace for the rest of the field, the two men wasted little time in moving clear. In truth, the two leaders were very comfortable at the front as they headed towards a one-two finish.
But with two laps to go, the no. 37 Citroën C-Elysée WTCC moved aside to let the no. 68 car past. Certain to win the title by finishing as runner-up, José María López handed victory to his team-mate.
For the first time this season, Yvan Muller therefore crossed the finishing line as the race winner. This enabled him to draw level with Tiago Monteiro in second place in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Second-placed Pechito López scored enough points to claim a third consecutive drivers’ title, as he now has an unassailable 120-point lead.
In the Manufacturers’ standings, Citroën moved a little bit closer to a sixteenth world title, having already won five Cross Country Rally World Cups, eight World Rally Championships and two World Touring Car Championships. The next round, held in Shanghai (24-25 September), should prove decisive!