The Citroën Total team claimed the top three spots in qualifying at the FIA WTCC meeting at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Despite a few drops of rain on Friday, the three free practice sessions all took place on a dry track. Making his return to Spa-Francorchamps, where he had shone in a single-seater event ten years or so ago, José-María López immediately felt at ease. The Argentine driver clocked the best time of the three practice sessions, and went into qualifying feeling confident.
Despite producing excellent performances in practice, with the 4th and 3rd best times in the two Saturday sessions, Ma Qing Hua was unable to make it past Q1. The Chinese driver will start both races from fourteenth place. Yvan Muller, José-María López and Sébastien Loeb, however, progressed to Q2 without any hiccups.
Given the length of the circuit, the ten minutes granted to the drivers to secure their place in Q3 left no room for error. With a time of 2’23’’204, José-María López reaffirmed his supremacy with a new lap record, half a second quicker than Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb.
The first Citroën driver out on track in Q3 was Sébastien Loeb, who impressed with a time of 2’23’’643. Next up was Yvan Muller, who knocked his teammate off top spot with a lap timed at 2’23’’497. José-María López, the last to go, knew in the first sector that he wasn’t going to match them. Pechito had to settle for the third-fastest time, less than two tenths of a second short of pole. WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Carlos Tavares, Chairman of the PSA Peugeot Citroën Managing Board: “I was delighted to see with my own eyes what I already knew. I came to Spa to witness first-hand a talented team with a rare level of expertise and professionalism. Everyone at Citroën Racing works together in an open spirit and with good communication. That was the impression I got when I attended the debriefing meetings. The team’s victories are, of course, invaluable for the company, but beyond that, their way of working offers a unique example of everything the PSA Peugeot Citroën should strive to be.”
Yvan Muller: “Pechito was clearly the quickest from the start of the weekend and beating him was no easy task! The Raidillon remains the trickiest corner to deal with, and we all made little mistakes there. I had a really good second sector in Q3, however, which is what allowed me to push for pole. With its combinations of fast turns, Spa is a circuit that really showcases the qualities of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.”
Sébastien Loeb: “We had trouble getting through the Raidillon error-free because of the power steering, which stiffens up dramatically when compressed. We have kept on improving all weekend, but it’s not quite perfect yet. Everywhere else, the car is fantastic! This circuit is incredible. I love it… except the Raidillon (he laughs)”
José-María López: “I think I peaked a little bit earlier than my teammates. I managed to clock a really good time in Q2, but I knew I could go quicker. In Q3, I lost nearly half a second at the Raidillon, which is where I had gained the advantage in the previous sessions. But despite all that, I’m satisfied with my result.”
Ma Qing Hua: “In free practice, I felt that my brakes were lacking a bit of bite, so the team changed them for qualifying. But I just didn’t feel right after that and my wheels locked on a few occasions. With worn tyres, it wasn’t possible for me to make it into Q2. I’m going to fight hard to overtake the men ahead of me and make my way up the field!”
1. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2’23’’497
2. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2’23’’643
3. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2’23’’688
4. Hugo Valente (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) 2’24’’646
5. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC) 2’25’’035
6. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)
7. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)
8. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
9. Mehdi Bennani (Honda Civic WTCC)
10. Gianni Morbidelli (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
14. Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)