After an out-of-the-ordinary experience at the Nürburgring, the FIA WTCC returns to a more conventional setting for its next meeting at Moscow Raceway.
Before rounding off the European season with trips to Slovakia, France and Portugal, the FIA World Touring Car Championship is heading east to Russia, the world’s largest country, for its fifth meeting of the year. The competition is making its third visit to Moscow Raceway, a circuit opened in 2012 and designed by famous architect Hermann Tilke.
Last year, the Russian weekend proved a fruitful one for the Citroën Total team. José María López was victorious in Race 1, with Sébastien Loeb picking up third spot. History was then made in Race 2, as Ma Qing Hua became the first Chinese driver to win an FIA World Championship race! In his very first weekend in a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, Qing Hua succeeded in holding off a resurgent Yvan Muller over the last few laps. So all four Citroën drivers have already enjoyed podium success at Moscow Raceway, and all four will be aiming to repeat the experience in 2015!
With no test sessions to occupy them since the Nürburgring, each Citroën driver has done his own thing over recent weeks. While Ma Qing Hua headed for Shanghai to catch up with his friends and savour his beloved Chinese cuisine, Yvan Muller prepared for his participation in the Rallye du Chablais in a DS 3 R5. Last week, José María López was to be found in the paddock at the Monaco GP as a consultant for FOX Sports. And after a few days’ rest with his family, Sébastien Loeb will be in Haguenau on Saturday 30 May for the official opening of the sports complex that bears his name!
On Thursday, they will all converge on the Russian circuit to start busily preparing for the fifth round of the WTCC season. With three pole positions, four Race-1 victories and three Race-2 podium spots to his name, José María López has a near-perfect record so far. The Argentine driver’s consistency has enabled him to build a 50-point cushion between himself and his nearest rival. Barring a dramatic turn of events, the reigning World Champion should still find himself at the top of overall standings when he leaves Russia. But Pechito has not forgotten that this circuit saw the only DNF of his FIA WTCC career so far…
Just one point separates Loeb from Muller
Lying second in the World Championship, a position he has occupied since the opening round, Sébastien Loeb has seen his advantage eroded over the last three meetings, with Yvan Muller now just one point behind him in third! With one win and four other podium finishes in eight races, Seb has clearly raised his game since last season. A little more success in qualifying is all he needs to challenge Pechito’s supremacy.
Little by little, Yvan Muller is making up for the ground he lost with his scoreless performance at Termas. But the World Champion does not want to settle for second. To rein in López, he will have to notch up pole positions, as he did in Hungary, and win races, as he did in Morocco and Germany! Yvan is a formidable competitor and will give no quarter…
Ma Qing Ha’s season has been one of highs and lows. So far, the Chinese driver has achieved just one podium finish (in Marrakech). But despite his relative inexperience, he will be aiming for nothing less than victory! Moscow is the first circuit this season that was part of his 2014 programme. He hopes to use that experience to snatch back fourth place in the Drivers’ World Championship from Tiago Monteiro.
José María López, Sébastien Loeb, Yvan Muller and Ma Qing Hua have all stacked up points for Citroën in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. The team has scored the maximum 95 points at three of the four meetings contested so far. This gives it a lead of 115 points, an advantage it will be seeking to build on in the meetings ahead!