A day after securing its third consecutive FIA World Touring Car Championship title, Citroën shone in the races at the Shanghai circuit, with José María López, Yvan Muller and Mehdi Bennani giving the C-Elysée WTCC its first one-two-three finish of the season!
As always, the huge stand at the Shanghai International Circuit was packed to capacity when the cars lined up on the starting grid. For the reverse-grid opening race, Yvan Muller and José María López started from eighth and tenth positions respectively.
SLR driver Tom Chilton got off to a flyer in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, moving into second place. Back in the chasing pack, Yvan Muller and José María López were engaged in something of a free-for-all. The Citroën Total drivers ended lap 1 in sixth and ninth respectively, with their cars already a little bruised and battered from their rivals’ attacks!
On lap 2, Yvan snatched fifth place, while Pechito found himself in a fight for seventh. The safety car made an appearance after Filippi was forced to abandon, causing the cars to bunch up somewhat before hostilities resumed for a further eleven laps.
Shortly afterwards, there was a turning point as Tarquini ran into Chilton. Both drivers were forced to withdraw from the race, enabling Yvan Muller to climb to third behind Michelisz and Björk. José María López also moved up into fifth.
The crowd was exhilarated as the gaps between the top five closed up with three laps remaining. The top two made contact on several occasions, with Björk eventually emerging victorious, ahead of Michelisz, Muller, López and Catsburg!
After the podium ceremony, the mechanics had just a few minutes’ repair time to remove all traces of the jousting of the opening race. Their sterling work meant José María López and Yvan Muller were able to go into the main race with their cars in perfect condition.
Once again, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs started superbly. Poleman José María López was the first man to turn, followed by Yvan Muller and Mehdi Bennani. The leader wasted no time in opening up a gap between himself and his teammate. In a much less turbulent race than the first, Pechito never looked back, speeding to his eighth win of the season.
Yvan Muller, meanwhile, held off Mehdi Bennani to clinch a second Shanghai podium spot. That rounded off an excellent weekend for Yvan, which saw him score 36 points, compared with 5 for his nearest rival for the Championship runner-up spot.
Mehdi Bennani beamed from the third step of the podium, having achieved his primary goal by winning the WTCC Trophy for independent drivers. The Moroccan driver saw off the challenge of his teammate Tom Chilton with a meeting to spare.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “It’s been a hugely positive weekend for Citroën Racing. Yesterday, we achieved our main goal by winning the Manufacturers’ World Championship. Today, we converted our good qualifying performance into great results in the races, with our first treble of the season. China and Shanghai are obviously a happy hunting ground for us, as this is where we took the top four places in a race for the first time in 2014. Pechito didn’t have anything to think about today: points were irrelevant, and he didn’t have to worry about how his performance might affect the compensation weights. I think he produced a performance that confirms his status as the best driver in the WTCC at present. With twin podium places, Yvan has put himself clear of his rivals in second place. All that remains is to finish the job in Qatar! Congratulations, too, to Mehdi Bennani and the SLR team for their WTCC Trophy victory, as well as Volvo and Thed Björk for their first wins in the competition.”
José María López: “It has been a fantastic weekend for all of us. We were the fastest out there. There was no pressure on me, as I knew I could get the better of Catsburg at the start of the main race. After that, I just tried to enjoy every lap in the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. What a fantastic car! It’s not often you get the opportunity to go out and win like that, without having to worry about anything whatsoever. We are all incredibly lucky to be part of this amazing adventure and we will be looking to finish in style in Doha.”