A day of firsts in Moscow
José María López and Yvan Muller were not able to challenge for pole position
For the first time since joining the FIA WTCC, the Citroën Total team took part in a qualifying session in the rain. José María López and Yvan Muller were not able to challenge for pole position, but they can nevertheless hope for good results in tomorrow’s races.
On Friday, the sun was still shining for the first free practice session. But the weather forecast left no room for doubt: Saturday was going to be decidedly damper! And so it proved. The rain began in the late morning, just as the drivers set off for a third session of free practice.
A heavy downpour then finished the job of soaking the Moscow circuit. For the first time in thirty meetings, then, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC slipped on their rain tyres for qualifying!
José María López and Yvan Muller were out on the track from the beginning of Q1, hoping to gain in confidence lap by lap. With their rear tyres cooling fast and 80kg of ballast hampering their handling, they had to put on a second set to secure a place in the top twelve.
For the ten-minute Q2, the rain eased off somewhat. Having been in fourth position with just a few seconds remaining, José María López dropped two places by the time the chequered flag came down. The Argentine driver thus finished sixth, missing out on a place in Q3 by sixteen hundredths of a second! That was another first for the reigning two-time World Champion, who had been an ever-present in Q3 since the start of 2014!
Yvan Muller took the eighth-fastest time in similar circumstances. Finding himself out of contention for pole position, the man from Alsace instead secured a place on the second row for the opening race.
The Citroëns did not fare much better in MAC3, with José María López, Tom Chilton and Yvan Muller taking second spot.
Tomorrow, rain is once again forecast for the races, which will take place at 12:15 and 1:30 p.m.
What they had to say
Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “We were expecting a difficult weekend. With 80kg of ballast, when our rivals were carrying 20kg at the most, the handling of our cars was severely affected on what is a very technically demanding circuit. I notice that four out of the five cars that made it through to Q3 were carrying no ballast at all. Despite the best efforts of the team and the drivers, we were not able to compensate for that disadvantage, so we had to settle for the result we got. Our lead in the World Championship puts things in perspective, and we still have the two races tomorrow to get something out of the meeting.”
José María López: “It’s quite a strange feeling not getting through to Q3, but it had to happen one day! I think what we have achieved this season with 80kg of ballast is pretty exceptional. But today, we suffered due to a combination of various factors. Our rivals have always performed very well here and we knew it was going to be even harder this time around. We tried to find our grip from the first free practice session, but we never really succeeded! The competitor in me is disappointed, but I am not in a bad situation. My nearest rivals for the title are behind me and my starting positions mean I am in with a shout of a podium place.”
Yvan Muller: “Obviously, we didn’t perform quite as well as we normally do. But we have won so often that we have to contend with the maximum ballast of 80kg. Without that handicap, I think we could have challenged for a place in the top five in qualifying. But that still wouldn’t have been enough to put us in the running for pole position. When we realised that I couldn’t make it to Q3, I decided not to try and improve on my time so I would be as close as possible to tenth place. It’s not a strategy I’m particularly keen on, but that’s the way the rules work.”
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