On the eve of the WTCC opener in Argentina this weekend, Motorsport.com caught up with four-time World Champion Yvan Muller.
Hired by Citroen to bring his huge amount of touring car experience to the French manufacturer in an ambitious programme that saw Citroen switch budgets from the WRC and bring in rally legend Sebastien Loeb, Muller was a natural favourite for a fifth crown – but was beaten by teammate Jose Maria Lopez.
"I thought I was ready for 2014, but I was mistaken"
Losing a lot of ground on both Citroen drivers in the beginning of the season, Muller couldn't get himself back on terms with Lopez. But as a pragmatic and self-critical champion, the Frenchman somehow doesn't shy away from that.
"It's true, success wasn't with me last year", he said. "I was involved in the crash in Marrakech; Lopez touched me at the start in Salzburg and I was left there… I was also the victim of a puncture in Suzuka: all this cost a lot!
“But I also lacked performance. I thought I was ready for 2014 thanks to my experience, but I was mistaken. The cars changed so much with the new rules that I had to learn everything again".
Simulator sickness a factor
Another unexpected problem for Muller was the fact he feels dizzy in the Citroen simulator, and couldn't prepare himself for each round the way he could have.
"The fact of not being good in the simulator, unlike Lopez and Loeb, didn't help me,” he admitted. “Actually, I was totally sick in those machines! It's a bit of a generational thing, but that's probably got to do with the internal ear.
“At first, I couldn’t go on for two laps: I had to stop because I was feeling so nauseous! But I hung on, kept on going, and I can lap around a bit more easily now; for about an hour. Today, I feel better prepared for the new season.”
Citroen Racing tested the C-Elysee in Valencia, Barcelona and Monteblanco over the winter in Spain to improve the car.
"We essentially worked on the suspensions and engine optimisation,” explained Muller. "The C-Elysee is an evolution compared to the 2014 version, but that isn't much.
“We gained a few tenths since the winter, but it's difficult to really quantify the real gain, as we didn't necessarily run in conditions that can be compared to anything during those tests.”
Yvan Muller was speaking to Guillaume Navarro