José María López and Yvan Muller earn first All-Citroën front row at the Nürburgring
On the most demanding circuit in the world, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC and its drivers confirmed their status as the standard-setters in the discipline.
Having dominated proceedings at the Nürburgring from the off, José María López and Yvan Muller clocked the fastest times in today’s FIA WTCC qualifying session.
On Thursday, the cars took to the track for two one-hour free practice sessions. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs shone from the very first session, with Yvan Muller and José María López the fastest men on show. In the early evening, the two men switched positions on the timing screens, with the Argentine driver going quicker than the Frenchman in the second session.
Free Practice 3 took place this morning and, after rain throughout the night, the drivers started off with their rain tyres on a soaked 25.378 km track. Gradually, the surface dried out and José María López once again claimed the quickest time, albeit a minute slower than the previous day.
By the time qualifying got under way just before 1 p.m., the sun had come out over the Eifel mountains. The usual Q1/Q2/Q3 system had been abandoned due to the length of the circuit, with the competitors instead having a single one-hour session to battle it out for pole position. However, given fuel tank capacity and the quota of tyres allocated to each driver, three laps per car was the most that could be envisaged.
After their first run, José María López and Yvan Muller were already in possession of the top two places. The red flag was brought out after an ETCC driver crashed off, but the session then resumed for another 24 minutes.
The official Citroën C-Elysée WTCC drivers improved on their times at the second attempt and held on to their lead. On his final lap, Yvan Muller set a personal best with a time of 8m39.114s, over two seconds faster than last year. Moments later, however, José María López secured another pole position with a time of 8m35.541s, breaking his own record from 2015 (8m37.327s).
José María López, Yvan Muller and Mehdi Bennani represented Citroën in the MAC3 time trial and took the runners-up spot.
Carlos Tavares (CEO, PSA Group): “This pole position is an excellent result, achieved with a big ballast handicap and on one of the most demanding circuits in the world. There wasn’t much time to assess the difficulties posed by the track and I think Citroën Racing has once again showcased its know-how, its expertise, its passion and, of course, its superiority. I am very happy for the team and I would like to offer them my warmest congratulations. The Nürburgring provides the stiffest of challenges, due to its length and the variety of difficulties along the way. It is still used by many manufacturers, including the PSA Group, to test a vehicle’s performance and active safety. In motorsport, when a car and a driver do well here, it’s a sure sign that they are hugely competitive.”
José María López: “It was the work put in by the entire team that enabled me to go out and win this pole position, so I would like to congratulate them and thank them for their commitment. As far as driving is concerned, a qualifying lap on the Nordschleife is the highlight of the season. We had three flying laps to win pole. I made good progress on my second run and I knew I could attack a little harder on my last attempt. I had a bit of a hairy moment on one bend, but I just about managed to keep the car on the track. Fortunately there was a slow turn just afterwards and it didn’t cost me too much time. It’s incredible to beat last year’s time while carrying 80kg of ballast!”
Yvan Muller: “I’m not disappointed to be second, as Pechito is really quick on this circuit. He might even be unbeatable! I’m satisfied, even if my last lap could have been a little quicker. I made a bit too much of it and lost more time than I gained. But even if that hadn’t happened, I don’t think I could have won pole. This circuit is just unbelievable. It requires a lot of commitment from the driver. You’re holding your breath quite a lot of the time, and it’s always a relief to get into the 3km straight, as it means you can breathe normally for a while!”
José-María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC): 8m35.541s
Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +3.573s
Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1) +4.526s
Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC) +5.037s
Tom Chilton (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +5.622s
Nicky Catsburg (Lada Vesta WTCC) +6.881s
Thed Björk (Volvo S60 Polestar) +6.941s
Rob Huff (Honda Civic WTCC) +8.018s
Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC) +8.925s
Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC) +9.864s
Lopez rules out Hamilton/Rosberg-style crash with Muller
Nurburgring WTCC: Lopez wins as Monteiro, Muller crash