José María López

  • Born: 26 April 1983 in Río Tercero (Argentina)
  • Racing debut: 2001
  • Races entered: 410
  • Wins: 72 (17%)
  • Podiums: 150 (36%)
  • Pole positions: 83
  • Fastest laps: 93

 

All statistics at the end of 2016. More on driverdb.com

STARTING OUT IN KARTING

José María López was born on 26 April 1983 in Rio Tercero, Cordoba Province, Argentina. From a very young age, he would spend his weekends at the track, cheering on his father, who went by the nickname ‘Pecho’.

At the age of 8, José María, already known as Pechito, took part in his first karting race. In 1993, he began to compete more seriously, racing in the Cordoba Province central zone championship. That year saw him claim his first win, at the Monte Maiz circuit. The very next season, he was champion!

From 1995 to 1998, José María López flitted from circuit to circuit in Argentina, building up his experience. In 1997, he won the Junior 125cc title. At the same time, he began to make preparations for the future, undertaking his first trials at the wheel of a Formula Renault.

After competing in the 1998 World Championship in Ugento, Italy, Pechito realised that he needed to move to Europe if he was to continue his progression. And so, just before the 1999 season, he decamped to the Italian town of Faenza, where he became a “semi-official” driver for CRG in Formula A. He took part in all the big meetings, finished 4th in the European Championship in Val d’Argenton, France, and got his first taste of Asia, claiming 8th place in the World Cup in Suzuka, Japan.

Promoted to official driver status by CRG, López raced a full karting season in 2000. As he approached his 18th birthday, single-seater racing beckoned.

A METEORIC RISE TO F1

After a season spent learning the ropes of Eurocup Formula Renault 2000 with the Lucidi team, Pechito joined Cram Competition, one of the leading teams of the period. With five pole positions and four race wins, he was crowned Italian Champion in 2002. And his sporadic Eurocup appearances were enough to secure him fourth place in that competition, with two wins.

Those performances earned him a place on the Renault Driver Development programme for talented youngsters.
In 2003, José María López confirmed his promise by dominating Eurocup Formula Renault V6. With eight pole positions and five victories, Pechito won the title for the Dams team and finally achieved his dream of driving a Formula 1 car! He was granted trials with the Renault F1 Team and Minardi F1 Team at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy.

But there was still a long way to go… In 2004, José María finished 6th in the last ever international F3000 championship. After that experience with the CMS Performance team, he returned to Dams for the inaugural season of the GP2 Series. With a win in Barcelona, he ended up 9th in the overall standings.

Still receiving support from Renault Driver Development, Pechito continued his GP2 career with Super Nova and achieved similar results to the previous season, with one race win at Magny-Cours and tenth place in the championship.

Around that time, the young Argentine moved to Enstone, right next to the Renault F1 Team factory. As the team’s fourth driver, he did plenty of development work. From Jerez, to Valencia, to Silverstone, Pechito covered nearly 10,000 km in Renault F1 cars!

But alas, the adventure was to stop there. Despite the potential he had shown season upon season, Pechito found himself without a programme for 2007 and was forced to return to the other side of the pond.

THE NEW KING OF ARGENTINEAN TC RACING !

In Argentina, López was welcomed back with open arms! He was offered a place in Honda’s semi-official team in the prestigious TC2000 championship. In his very first season, he won three events, in San Rafael, Viedma and Obera.

In 2008, he made history with the Honda Racing Lubrax team. In fourteen races, Pechito won nine pole positions – including eight in a row – as well as four victories on his way to the championship crown!

He was keeping his options open, though, seeking out as many experiences as he could. In 2007, he had competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring and done tests for the Scuderia Ferrari in the 430GT. During the 2008 season, he took part in four FIA GT races in a Ferrari 550 Maranello for ACA Argentina, as well as competing in Turismo Carretera in an HAZ Racing Chevrolet.

2009 was another landmark season. With Petrobras Racing, the number-37 driver retained his TC2000 title. In his first season in Top Race V6, he emerged as champion in his Sport Team Mercedes. Pechito was also in with a shot of winning Turismo Carretera, but, in the very last race, he crashed off just a few hundred metres from the finish, slipping on some oil that had leaked out of a broken engine!

The “Triple Corona” may have gone up in smoke, but Pechito’s stats for that season are simply staggering: in 41 races, he claimed 22 pole positions and finished first on 10 occasions!

Once again, José María’s thoughts turned to Formula 1. He raised the money required to become one of the drivers for the new USF1 team. Unfortunately, the project was aborted for financial reasons.

Following that disappointment, Pechito continued in touring car racing, competing in three championships and around forty races a year. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were less productive, but our hero was back to winning ways in 2012! Driving a Ford Focus for the private team PSG16, José María won the Super TC2000 title, notching up four victories along the way.

THE ROAD TO THE FIA WTCC

2013 was a pivotal year in José María López’s career. As well as taking part in Super TC2000, Turismo Carretera and Top Race V6, he competed in the Argentinian round of the FIA WTCC. In the Wiechers team’s modest BMW, he caused a sensation by winning one of the two races!

Citroën Racing, who were preparing to join the competition for the 2014 season, decided to give the Argentine driver a trial. Straightaway, Pechito showed the level of performance required, and the French team entrusted him with an official driver berth in one of its C-Elysées.

It would certainly be no understatement to say that Pechito quickly showed he could more than live up to expectations. He wasted little time grabbing the lead in the World Championship at the start of the 2014 season. Fast and consistent, he racked up win after win, achieving the perfect weekend at his home event when he claimed pole position and won both races at the Autodromo Termas de Río Hondo! The final outcome of the season was decided in Suzuka, when he became the first Argentinian to win a motorsport World Championship since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957.

The 2015 season began in Argentina and José María López lived up to his new status as world champion by winning the year’s opening race. In the first eight races, he finished on the podium seven times, winning four of them. Pechito was especially determined to win the first ever WTCC race held on the legendary Nürburgring racetrack. After going two rounds without a win – a rare occurrence for the Argentinian – he came back strongly at Paul Ricard and then at Vila Real. He was just as fast in the Asian rounds and wrapped up his second world title in Thailand. At the season finale held in Qatar, he equalled his own records for the number of pole positions (7) and race wins (10) in a season.

Racing highlights

KARTING

First race at Rio Tercero

Cordóba Go-Kart Championship (Zona Centro) – 50cc: 1 win

Cordóba Go-Kart Championship (Zona Centro) – 50cc: CHAMPION

Test at Ayrton Senna Circuit, São Paulo (Brazil)

Argentina Go-Kart Championship – Pre-Junior 125cc

Cordóba Go-Kart Championship – Pre-Junior 125cc

Campeonato Metropolitano – Pre-Junior 125cc: 2nd

Granja Viana Cup – Formula A 100cc (Brazil)

Internacional Seniors – 100cc (Argentina)

Argentina Championship – Junior 125cc: 2nd (1 win)

Master of Argentina Race – Junior 125cc: 1st

Cordóba Go-Kart Championship – Junior 125cc: 2 wins

Argentina Championship race – Senior 100cc: 2nd

Argentina Championship – Junior 125cc: CHAMPION

Testing in Formula Renault Argentina (Marcos Juarez, Rio Cuarto & Cordóba)

Karting World Championship – Formula A 100cc (DGR Team) at Ugento (Italia)

Campeonato Panamericano – Formula A 100cc (RK Racing): 7th

1000 Dollars’ Cup – Formula A 100cc (RK Racing): 1st

Testing in Formula Renault Argentina (Marcos Juarez, Rio Cuarto & Cordóba)

Italian Open – Formula A 100cc (CRG): 3rd

Trofeo de la Industria – Formula A 100cc (RK Racing): 1st

European Championship – Formula A 100cc (CRG): 4th (1 win)

World Championship – Formula A 100cc (CRG) at Mariembourg (Belgium): 22nd

World Cup – Formula A 100cc (CRG) at Suzuka (Japan): 8th

Winter Cup – Formula A 100cc (CRG) at Lonato (Italy)

European Championship – Formula A 100cc (CRG)

World Championship – Formula A 100cc (CRG) at Braga (Italy)

World Cup – Formula A 100cc (CRG) at Motegi (Japan)

SINGLE SEATER

Eurocup Formula Renault 2000 (Lucidi Team): 16th (1 pole position, 1 fastest lap)

Formula Renault 2000 Winter Race (Lucidi Team) at Magione (Italy)

Formula Renault 2000  Italian championship (Cram): CHAMPION (5 pole positions, 4 wins)

Eurocup Formula Renault 2000 (Cram): 4th (1 pole position, 2 wins)

Eurocup Formula Renault V6 (DAMS): CHAMPION (8 pole positions, 5 wins)

Member of Renault Driver Development program

Testing in Formula 1: Renault (Barcelona) and Minardi (Vallelunga)

International F3000 championship (CMS Performance): 6th

Member of Renault Driver Development program

4 shakedowns with Renault F1 Team

GP2 Series (DAMS): 9th (1 win)

Member of Renault Driver Development program – 3 shakedowns and testing with Renault F1 Team

“Master de Pilotos” karting race in Buenos Aires: 1st

GP2 Series (Super Nova): 10th (1 wins)

Member of Renault Driver Development program – 4th Renault F1 Team driver, testing more than 10,000km in Jerez, Valencia and Silverstone

FIA Formula E (DS Virgin Racing)

ENDURANCE & TOURING CAR

TC2000: 5th (2 pole positions, 3 wins)

12 Hours of Sebring (Peterson Motorsports)

Testing with Ferrari 430GT at Fiorano

TC2000 (Honda Racing Lubrax): CHAMPION (8 pole positions in a row, 4 wins)

FIA GT (Ferrari 550 Maranello / ACA Argentina)

Turismo Carretera (HAZ Racing): 15th

TC2000 (Petrobras Racing): CHAMPION (9 pole positions, 4 wins)

Top Race V6 (AS Racing): CHAMPION (7 pole positions, 4 wins)

Turismo Carretera (HAZ Racing): 2nd (6 pole positions, 2 wins)

TC2000 (Petrobras Racing): 4th (1 win)

Top Race V6 (AS Racing): 4th

Turismo Carretera (Oil Competicion)

FIA GT (Aston Martin Young Drivers): 1 race

USF1 driver until the project collapsed

TC2000 (Fiat): 5th (1 win)

Top Race V6 (Oil Competición): 2nd

Turismo Carretera (Oil Competición): 4th (1 pole position and 1 win)

Super TC2000 (PSG16): CHAMPION (6 pole positions, 4 wins)

Top Race V6 (Tauro Gidi Team)

Turismo Carretera (Oil Competición)

Super TC2000 (PSG16): 4th

Top Race V6: 2nd

Turismo Carretera (Oil Competición)

FIA WTCC (Wiechers): 2 races, 1 win

FIA WTCC (Citroën Total): CHAMPION (7 pole positions, 10 wins)

FIA WTCC (Citroën Total): CHAMPION (7 pole positions, 10 wins)

FIA WTCC (Citroën Total): CHAMPION (7 pole positions, 8 wins)

Testing with Toyota Gazoo Racing and DS Virgin Racing

FIA WEC (Toyota Gazoo Racing)