Pole position for Pechito, FIA WTCC title for Citroën!

Two weeks after José María López clinched the Drivers’ title in Japan, Citroën has wrapped up the 2016 FIA WTCC Manufacturers’ title after qualifying in Shanghai. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCC notched up its thirtieth pole position in the competition, thanks to Pechito López, while Yvan Muller qualified in third place.

The penultimate FIA WTCC meeting of the season began with two sessions of free practice. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs were in the mix from the start, with José María López and Yvan Muller clocking the second- and third-fastest times in the first session. The second half-hour, meanwhile, saw the Citroën Total drivers shift their focus from speed to race setup.

The stakes in qualifying were higher than usual, with Citroën not only competing for pole position, but also in with a good chance of sewing up their third consecutive World Championship title. Two points were all they needed!

José María López showed his potential from Q1, topping the timing screens with a lap clocked at 1m50.279s. Yvan Muller also made it through to Q2 in fifth place. Those results meant Citroën was already guaranteed the world title, but everyone involved remained resolutely focused on the task at hand.

Q2 saw Pechito López turn the screw, with a lap timed at 1m49.524s. With Mehdi Bennani and Yvan Muller also finishing in the top five, three Citroëns earned a place in the final showdown! In Q3, Yvan was second on track, and could not outdo first man out Nick Catsburg, who beat Pechito’s Q2 time. A few minutes later, Mehdi Bennani slipped in between Muller and Björk, but Pechito was still to come!

Marginally outpaced by Catsburg over the first two sectors, the Argentine driver produced a whirlwind finish to nab his seventh pole position of the season in 1m49.339s, 0.161s ahead of Catsburg. Yvan Muller claimed third place, earning three points that could prove crucial in his pursuit of the Championship runner-up spot.

After celebrating these results, the team turned their attention to MAC3, with José María López, Yvan Muller and Mehdi Bennani the men at the wheel. Unfortunately, the SLR driver ran into a technical problem and the team was forced to withdraw, albeit safe in the knowledge that the outcome would have no bearing on the Manufacturers’ World Championship standings!

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY

Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “With this third consecutive FIA WTCC world title, we have achieved our goal and we can end our involvement in the competition with the feeling that we have accomplished what we set out to. We are very proud to have won the championship in China, Citroën’s premier global market. We knew that things would be tricky for us in 2016, with just two official cars, regulations that worked against us and rivals that would up their game. The whole team has worked calmly and methodically to get the very most out of the car and the drivers. The SLR team is part of this success too. Alongside José María López and Yvan Muller, Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton have brought us invaluable points, particularly in the reverse-grid races. Today’s result was really positive for Yvan, who took the points for third place, while his rivals finished much further down. Before we celebrate this new title, Citroën’s sixteenth, we are going to focus on the races to try and add to our win tally.”

José María López: “First of all, I would like to congratulate Citroën Racing on their third consecutive title. I feel lucky to be part of this team. I have learnt a lot from working with them and their work makes my job behind the wheel so much easier! As we expected, Nick produced a really good Q3 lap and I took all the risks I could to dislodge him from pole position. Sometimes, going out last means you can play it tactically, but that wasn’t so much the case today. It’s going to be a big day for us tomorrow. We’ll have to keep on attacking to win here.”

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