Maximum points for Citroën in Hungary!
Mehdi Bennani and José María López are the WTCC rain masters
With a pair of one-two finishes on the soaked Hungaroring track, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs secured the maximum possible points haul to propel the Citroën team to the top of the Manufacturers’ World Championship. José María López also extended his lead at the top of the Drivers’ standings after his third main-race win, while Yvan Muller claimed his first podium finish of the year.
As forecast, a wave of cold, rainy weather set in over Hungary overnight. As soon as they arrived in the paddock, the drivers and engineers got back down to work to adapt the setup of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs to the changed conditions.
By the time the cars lined up on the grid for the opening race, however, the rain had stopped. After two reconnaissance laps, Yvan Muller and José María López opted to put on their slicks. Approaches among their rivals differed, with some plumping for rain tyres, or even a mixed setup, with slicks on the front wheels and rain tyres at the rear.
My win in the main race was one of the trickiest of my career.
José María López
When the lights went out, Mehdi Bennani took advantage of his rain tyres to take the lead, ahead of Yvan Muller. After a few turns, however, the four-time World Champion’s car went into a slide, allowing two rivals to pass him. With no grip whatsoever, Yvan continued to drop down the standings, finding himself out of the points along with José María López.
While Mehdi Bennani controlled the race, the other Sébastien Loeb Racing drivers were also performing strongly in the pack. Tom Chilton drove brilliantly to climb to second place, while Grégoire Demoustier chased after seventh.
With no chance of scoring any points in the opening race, Yvan Muller and José María López headed for the pits to put on rain tyres so as acquire data for the main race. The race ended with Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton securing a one-two for Citroën, and with it the maximum possible points tally.
The weather conditions remained relatively unchanged for the main race, the meeting’s big finale. This time, all the drivers chose to use four rain tyres. Starting from pole position, José María López made a perfect start, as did Yvan Muller, who climbed from eighth on the grid to third by the first turn!
On lap 2, Muller moved past Rob Huff. A few seconds later, the safety car came out after Grégoire Demoustier crashed off. When the race resumed, López and Muller held on to their lead, but the gaps closed up in mid-race, suggesting a suspenseful finish was in store!
On lap 9, Rob Huff grabbed second place after running into Yvan Muller while braking. After an inquiry, the stewards decided to hand a drive-through penalty to the Briton, and the driver of Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 68 duly regained his former position.
The two teammates continued to dominate until the end of the race, and crossed the finish line in first and second. This second double of the weekend saw Citroën take top spot in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, with a forty-point advantage over the second-placed team. Having led the Drivers’ standings since qualifying, José María López extended his lead to 12 points.
The next round of the FIA WTCC will take place in Marrakech, in Mehdi Bennani’s home country, from May 6 to May 8.
What they had to say
Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “This pair of one-two finishes represents our best ever result at the Hungaroring. The rain and the tricky track conditions made the races eventful affairs, with lots of overtaking. Yes, we didn’t make the best decision by opting for slicks in the opening race, but it was the best option on the grid, as there was no more rain forecast. In the end, it was the private drivers who scored the points for Citroën. Congratulations to Mehdi and Tom, who took advantage of their shrewd choice to give the SLR team a well-earned double. In the main race, Pechito and Yvan produced a perfect performance, showing that the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC was well and truly the best car in these difficult conditions.”
José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 37): “When it came to deciding what tyres to use for the opening race, we were hesitating between various options. I based my strategy on that of my rivals for the championship. That was a mistake, but it didn’t have huge consequences. My win in the main race was one of the trickiest of my career. I never felt totally comfortable, particularly when I was put under pressure first by Yvan, and then by Rob! Obviously, the penalty handed to Huff gave me a little breathing space at the end of the race. I am really very happy to have won in these conditions. Race after race, there are new pitfalls to evade, and we managed to evade them successfully in this race.”
Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 68): “I don’t think I’ve ever driven in conditions with so little grip. It was worse than black ice! I got a great start in the main race and was third on the first bend and second a little later on. I was battling it out with Pechito and that allowed Rob to come back at me. I was angry when he hit me, as it was the fourth time I’ve been run into by a Honda this season. It’s beginning to be a bit much, and I think his penalty was totally justified. Meanwhile, José had opened up a bit of a gap, and it was too late to catch him. Once you give Pechito a lead, there is no catching him! I’m happy to have got my first podium of 2016 and I’m happy for the team, because that was a great overall result today.”
Hungary WTCC: Lopez leads Citroen 1-2 in thrilling main race
Huff: Muller's antics result of losing to Lopez