Yvan Muller, José María López and Sébastien Loeb earned a treble for Citroën Total in FIA WTCC qualifying at the Slovakia Ring today.
Free Practice 1 on Friday was a particularly lively affair, with Yvan Muller and José María López both ending up in the gravel pit. On Saturday morning, however, the top two in the Drivers World Championship standings bounced back to clock the best times in the other two practice sessions.
After a light shower in the dying seconds of free practice, the grey clouds that had amassed above the Slovakia Ring cleared as qualifying approached. All the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs secured a place in Q2. José María López and Ma Qing Hua claimed the two fastest times, while Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb finished sixth and seventh. Mehdi Bennani claimed twelfth spot in the car prepared by Sébastien Loeb Racing.
Yvan Muller, José María López and Sébastien Loeb found themselves in the top three places after their first Q2 lap. After judging that issues with the balance of his car would probably prevent him from winning a top-five spot, Ma Qing Hua decided to concentrate on optimising his starting position for the second race. He eventually managed the seventh-best time, meaning he will start Race 2 from the second row of the grid.
The battle for pole position reached its conclusion in Q3. Sébastien Loeb, the first Citroën driver out on track, outdid the two Vestas that went before him. Despite a slower split in the first sector, José María López managed to go 0.6s faster than the nine-time World Rally Champion. But, like in Hungary and Russia, Yvan Muller came out on top. Producing three consecutive purple sectors to secure the best overall time, the man from Alsace also broke the track record with a lap timed at 2:03.736, 0.2s quicker than his teammate!
What they had to say
Carlos Tavares, CEO, PSA Peugeot Citroën: “These qualifying results are the fruit of a combination of a meticulous, organised team, a competitive car and top-class drivers. When those stars align, the results are remarkable. I particularly admire the team’s human dimension. The management, the mechanics and the drivers have a great rapport and work closely together to achieve a common goal: winning for Citroën.”
Yvan Muller: “We got better throughout free practice and with each stage of qualifying. I was happy with the balance of my Citroën C-Elysée WTCC in Q1, and we improved the setup further in Q2, before making a final adjustment in Q3. The car was perfect. I was able to put my wheels exactly where I wanted them and I managed to produce a near-perfect lap. I want to savour this pole position a little before turning my attention to the races! It’s not an easy circuit for a front-wheel drive and we will have to cope with 60 kg more ballast than the two cars that qualified just behind us.”
José María López: “It was another close battle with Yvan. His lap was fantastic and I’m not going to look for excuses: he was just the quickest this afternoon. I’m satisfied with my Q3 lap. It was the first time I had dipped under 2m04s this weekend. I lost quite a bit of time in the first sector, which is normally when I’m at my fastest. We’ll have to sit down and study the data. I’m not disappointed, even though I would have preferred to be on pole. It’s a good result for the team.”
Sébastien Loeb: “I’m happy to have got through to Q3 again after a frustrating weekend in Moscow. My Citroën C-Elysée WTCC had a good setup and we have made good progress since Hungary and Russia. I made a few tiny errors in Q3, particularly on bends 3 and 6. Apart from that I did pretty well, but my teammates are just that bit better at the moment.”
Ma Qing Hua: “I had a really good car in Q1, with very stable handling. But the track changed and I couldn’t find the same balance in Q2. The car was understeering quite a lot, so I decided not to attack too hard and aimed to finish around eighth. In the end, I was a bit too fast, but seventh place means I can still aim for a good result in Race 2.”
Results and standings
1. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2:03.736
2. José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2:03.959
3. Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) 2:04.583
4. Rob Huff (Lada Vesta WTCC) 2:04.598
5. Nicky Catsburg (Lada Vesta WTCC) 2:04.905
6. Hugo Valente (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
7. Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
8. Tom Chilton (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
9. Gabriele Tarquini (Honda Civic WTCC)
10. Jaap van Lagen (Lada Vesta WTCC)
11. Mato Homola (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
12. Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)