The Moroccan driver now wants to do his utmost in front of his home crowd.
Following on a positive start in the World Touring Car Championship, one of the most important races of the season is already approaching for the Sébastien Loeb Racing. Indeed, since the WTCC’s second round takes place on Marrakech’s urban track, Mehdi Bennani will be competing at home.
After a win as part of the Yokohama Trophy – for Independent competitors – as well as a Top 5-finish at the opening round in Argentina, the Moroccan driver now wants to do his utmost in front of his home crowd.
Carrying the hopes of an entire people
Mehdi Bennani: “The atmosphere in Marrakech is very special, actually unique !” Earlier this year, in March, at the Termas de Rio Hondo track, it was all about discovering for the Sébastien Loeb Racing and Mehdi Bennani. The team, co-founded by Sébastien Loeb and Dominique Heintz, was taking its first steps in the World Touring Car Championship. As for the Moroccan driver, it was his first time racing on board of the Citroën C-Elysée.
A first go which resulted in promising performances. It is now time to confirm that in Marrakech. Though the team has now gained some experience, a new parameter comes into play : all eyes will be on the No. 25 car racing under Moroccan colours and Mehdi will be carrying the hopes of an entire people.
“Even if scheduled quite early on in the WTCC’s calendar, it’s still the most important race of the season. I’ll be competing at home and the whole of Morocco is looking forward to this event” says Mehdi. “The WTCC is a major sports event in our country. I know that everybody will be supportive hoping to see me fighting for a good place at the lead of the race. There’s always a huge enthusiasm in Marrakech.
I want to offer the best result possible to His Majesty Mohammed VI,
That’s actually the only time throughout the whole season when I can hear people cheer from inside the car ! The atmosphere is very special, actually unique. It creates a wave of passion and good energy that I can ride. I want to offer the best result possible to His Majesty Mohammed VI, to the Moroccans and to my partners. I want to thank them all for their support. I have no right to disappoint them.”
Having posted the Q1 fastest lap in the qualifying and having come back from the 11th to the 5th place in Race 2, Mehdi was competitive in Argentina and he wishes to capitalise on what he has learnt there. “Generally speaking there’s fewer unknowns therefore I am more relaxed” admits the Moroccan driver. “Almost everything was to be learnt at Termas de Rio Hondo. We’ve now got the confirmation that it is possible for us to aim for the Top 10 and more.
We still have a lot to learn and we can optimise all of the parameters, but it’s very positive as it means that there’s some room for improvement. I know where I am at, I know where I’m heading to and I have an idea about how far I can get to. I am very familiar with this track, it’s a difficult one, no mistake is tolerated. The car and I have to be as one, always reaching for the limit, to the very last millimetre. I will give it 100% as always and I will aim for the highest place !”
Mehdi Bennani will rely on a good experience of Marrakech’s circuit where he has been racing since 2009. Actually, 2009 was the first time that he had won the Yokohama Trophy. Last year, he had to put up with several incidents occurring during the race and finally came seventh, a result which did not reflect his potential. This season he will be able to count on the qualities of the Citroën C-Elysée with which Citroën Racing achieved a one-two-three finish and a one-two in Morocco in 2014, as the car was taking its first steps in the WTCC.
“Marrakech is an unusual track where the Citroën C-Elysée performs well” explains Sébastien Loeb, Director of the Sébastien Loeb Racing and driver for Citroën Racing. “The car needs to have a good maximum speed and a good behaviour in terms of braking. That’s exactly the case. Mehdi performed well in Argentina and we’re convinced that he can go further.
Our goal is now to pick up momentum in terms of both the operating of the car and the results themselves. Mehdi and the team will be really motivated in Marrakech. We know what it means for Mehdi to be there, that’s why the entire team is committed to do their best. Mehdi has everything he needs to distinguish himself. There will be some opportunities that he will have to seize without making any mistakes.
Five Citroën C-Elysée are competing in the WTCC this season. The Sébastien Loeb Racing enters one of them with Mehdi Bennani while also bringing its operational support to Ma Qing Hua whose car is entered by Citroën Racing.
Sébastien Loeb Racing