The FIA officially crowned Yvan Muller and Honda as the 2013 FIA World Touring Car Champions at its Prize-Giving awards evening in Paris today.
The ninth season of the FIA World Touring Car Championship saw the Frenchman clinching an unprecedented fourth title in the Drivers’ Championship, while Honda won the Manufacturers’ Championship in its first full season in the series.
Muller, who had been previously crowned champion in 2008, 2010 and 2011, dominated the season claiming seven race victories at the wheel of a Chevrolet Cruze run by the RML team. He kicked off in style at Monza, winning both races on a rain-soaked track. Since then he kept on building up a gap that eventually became big enough to give him the title at Suzuka, with two events still to be held. A very uncommon situation in the WTCC.
With Muller uncatchable in the lead, Gabriele Tarquini, James Nash, Tom Chilton and the 2012 World Champion Rob Huff had a close fight over the second position that remained undecided until the final race at Macau. Eventually Tarquini managed to salvage the second place, despite missing Macau’s first race due to a technical problem, while Nash completed the podium in third.
“This title has a special taste because before the beginning of the season I did not have a drive. The programme was finalised only one month before Monza. It was already a victory to actually be on the grid. And then it was difficult because we had to manage to be competitive on a lower budget, which created a lot of problems such as a significant reduction in testing time, for example. But eventually we have been champions again, and without the backing of a manufacturer,” said Muller who will defend the title in 2014 driving for the newcomer Citroën Racing and with a new team-mate: nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb.
“I’m looking forward to it. This is the first time I work with a French manufacturer. It’s a great challenge as Citroën has a lot of experience in rally, but not at all in racing. I have to give them as much experience I can. It’s a lot of responsibility, because at least at the beginning they will rely on me. All the team, and Sébastien too. But he is a fantastic champion and I am sure he will be a very quick learner.”
Honda was crowned Manufacturers’ Champion and this was also the first World title for the Japanese manufacturer since its Formula One triumphs between 1988 and 1991, when it was McLaren’s engine supplier.
William de Braekeleer, Motorsport Manager Honda Motor Europe, who collected the trophy, said: “This World Championship honour for Honda represents a great reward for everyone who worked so hard on this programme, whether at the tracks or at home in Japan, Italy and Hungary. Thanks to the continuous dedication and expertise of the people at JAS Motorsport, Zengö Motorsport, Mugen and Honda R&D, not to mention the talent of Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz, we achieved four victories and sixteen other podium results; something that gives you a real sense of pride for a first year in WTCC. And obviously our aim is now to do even better in 2014 !”