WTCC will reach its halfway mark next weekend at the Slovakia Ring. A week later, the competitors will be at it again at France’s Paul Ricard circuit.
The FIA WTCC has a frenetic period in store before the summer break! In the space of a little over three weeks, the teams and drivers will battle it out at the Slovakia Ring, the Paul Ricard Circuit and Vila Real (Portugal). Six races – a quarter of the season – which could swing the World Championship.
For the moment, José María López has the mathematical advantage. Over the first five weekends, the Argentine driver notched up three pole positions and four race wins. Despite having a leaner time of things at Moscow Raceway, Pechito is still 35 points clear at the top of the table. And he’s planning on returning to winning ways in Slovakia!
“It’s going to be a special weekend. The Slovakia Ring is one of my very favourite circuits,” warns the reigning World Champion. “The surface is totally smooth and I particularly like the sequences of high- and mid-speed bends. Bend n°2, which you can go through at full speed as long as you are totally confident, is one of the most exciting features of the season. Last year I got pole position, but I didn’t really take advantage of it in the race. It was raining so hard! I’m hoping for more clement weather this time around, for the spectators as much as for us. I can’t wait to get out there to defend my position and get some good results for Citroën.”
Muller will be looking to continue to gain ground on López
Like López, Yvan Muller has one zero-point outing on his 2015 record. After knocking 16 points off his rival and teammate’s lead in Russia, the four-time World Champion is now aiming to rein him in further: “Since the Hungaroring, I have felt that the work we have put in is paying off. I’ve changed lots of little things, in my preparation, my setup and my driving. A combination of those factors has allowed me to perform better in qualifying and in the races. It’s a long season and we’re not even halfway through yet. I’m going to keep fighting till the end! The Slovakia Ring has some similarities with the Hungaroring and Moscow Raceway, two circuits where I felt at ease. So I’ m feeling pretty confident.”
Loeb will be seeking to repeat his 2014 triumph in Slovakia
Having occupied second spot in the World Championship since the beginning of the season, Sébastien Loeb was overtaken by Muller in Russia. After a weekend that saw his chances go up in smoke in qualifying, the former rally driver will be hoping everything comes together this time around: “I have to bounce back and hope things turn out a little better for me. In Moscow, I didn’t really feel comfortable with the car in free practice, and I paid a heavy price in qualifying. I think I’ll do better in Slovakia, not least because the circuit is better suited to our Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. After a rough time of late, I’ll have to score plenty of points to make sure my teammates don’t p ull too far ahead at the top!”
Ma Qing Hua will also be fighting hard for a win or a podium place
With one podium finish to his name this season, Ma Qing Hua is continuing to improve as he gains experience. In Moscow, the team’s youngest driver showed admirable consistency, as well as the capacity to withstand pressure from his competitors in the pack!
“Pechito, Seb and Yvan have all won races already this season, so I want to emulate them and get a victory under my belt,” says the Chinese driver. “That would allow me to close the gap on Tiago Monteiro and challenge him for fourth place in the World Championship! I don’t know the Slovakia Ring, but I was here with the team last year and the track seems exciting to drive on. I want to build on my positive weekend in Moscow by putting in a good performance.”
As a result of the evening-out of performance levels at Moscow Raceway, the compensation weights have been significantly altered. The Hondas will now, like the Citroëns, carry 60 kg of ballast, while the RML Chevrolets will have 50 kg. Only the Ladas will continue to compete ballast-free.
The meeting will begin on Friday with half an hour of free practice at 1.10 p.m. The two remaining sessions are scheduled for Saturday at 9.35 a.m. and 12 noon. Qualifying will begin at 3 p.m. On Sunday, when there will be plenty of exciting races to savour, the 11th and 12th rounds of the FIA WTCC season will take place at 12.45 and 3 p.m., each lasting 11 laps (65.142 km). Like France, Slovakia is part of the GMT+2 time zone.