The Moroccan driver had a difficult time on the Hungaroring track.
On a track that he appreciates and where he is used to shine, Mehdi Bennani was hoping to clinch a new good outcome for the third round of the World Touring Car Championship. Entering the competition with the Sébastien Loeb Racing, at the wheel of his Citroën C-Elysée, the Moroccan driver actually had a difficult time on the Hungaroring track. Just outside the Top 10 in the qualifying, Mehdi never managed to work his way back up during the first race. In the second one he had to withdraw due to a mechanical problem.
I’m disappointed but I trust the team
Cinquième With a fifth-place and a fourth-place finish respectively in Argentina and Morocco, and following on a great first row in the qualifying, Mehdi Bennani was expecting a lot of the two races to be fought in Hungary. Alas, the Moroccan driver has not been able to meet the objectives he had set himself, namely the Top 5.
“It was a tough weekend” confides Mehdi. “The good sensations I’ve had since the beginning of the season weren’t there. The entire team got together but we haven’t been able to reverse the trend. The fact that there was no practice session on Friday certainly played a part. It’s a shame because I quite like this track and I’ve always achieved good results here before. During race 1 I’ve tried to attack but didn’t make it and wasn’t able to come back. In race 2, an alarm went off and so I had to go into the pits. I’m disappointed but I trust the team. We’re going to work hard in order to fully understand what’s happened.”
“We knew that we would have to put up with some difficult moments throughout the season. This round in Budapest is one of them” admits Technical Director, Léo Thomas. “It’s part of our learning process. The first two meetings were very positive and are now balanced by this third round. But let’s not forget our very good start of the season. We need to give ourselves enough time to acquire the necessary experience in this discipline full of experts: we’re tacking note of what’s happened today, but without putting everything into question. It has to enable us to make positive progress so that we come back for the next round even stronger than before. We’re sharing Mehdi’s disappointment, but our motivation has also grown even bigger.”
With no test on Friday, practice time was limited to two 30-minute sessions, a format which did not make things easier for the team, still in a learning phase with the car. Despite that, Mehdi started by posting the eighth lap time of the first session. During the qualifying, he reached the 10th place in Q1 and then came 11th in Q2, only 83 thousandths behind row 10 – Race 2’s pole position.
11th on the starting grid, Mehdi Bennani avoided the catches of the first corner and came out of it in the same place, after the start of Race 1. In the wakes of Tom Coronel and former World Champion Rob Huff, Mehdi was then fighting with another WTCC winner : Gabriele Tarquini. The Italian driver managed to overtake in the seventh lap. Though Mehdi was attacking in order to race at the right pace, he had to make do with a twelfth place at the chequered flag.
Unfortunately for the Sébastien Loeb Racing and his driver, Race 2 was about to be cut short. Following on an engine alarm at the start, the No. 25 went straight back into the pit and had to retire.
The World Touring Car Championship’s next round will take place in Germany, on the legendary Nordschleife track, on May 15th and 16th.
Sébatien Loeb Racing