Yvan Muller makes the front row, Citroën win MAC3
A great team effort from Muller, Chilton and López also gave Citroën victory in MAC3.
In a closely contested day of FIA WTCC qualifying at Vila Real, Yvan Muller produced a solid display. The four-time World Champion’s second-place finish puts him in contention for a win tomorrow. A great team effort from Muller, Chilton and López also gave Citroën victory in MAC3.
The first half of the FIA WTCC season was regularly disrupted by rain, but the sun was well and truly shining at Vila Real.
On Friday, the drivers reacquainted themselves with the Portuguese street circuit, which has been altered at the chicane that slows the drivers down after the fastest section of the course. Their quest for the optimum setup continued on Friday morning. In the third and final practice session, José María López clocked the fastest time of the weekend so far at 1m56.365s. Yvan Muller was fourth, despite a slight knock that required one of his rear suspension triangles to be replaced during the session.
At 2 p.m., the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs were ready to set off for qualifying. As on all the other street circuits in the championship, Q1 lasted thirty minutes. Sporting new tyres from the outset, Yvan Muller and José María López quickly took control. Assured of a place in the top twelve, both drivers sat out the last ten minutes.
They would then need to raise their game to make sure they were among the five drivers to qualify for Q3, however. Yvan Muller initially found himself in third position. It was a tough session for Pechito López. He brushed the safety barrier on his first run and had to return to the pits for a checkup and to have a new set of tyres fitted. The Argentine driver was back out on track at the same time as his rivals, but he made a mess of his first flying lap by cutting across the chicane. On his last attempt, he snatched third place, just behind Yvan, who had managed to improve on his time.
López was the third man out in Q3, after Monteiro and Michelisz. Having been four tenths of a second ahead after the second sector, José María went straight on down an escape road and thus found himself relegated to fifth place.
Next up was Yvan Muller, who produced a solid, if not perfect, lap to claim the second-fastest time, after Monteiro. Last man out Rob Huff made a mistake, leaving the order unchanged.
After the eventful qualifying sessions, Yvan Muller, José María López and Tom Chilton came back out for MAC3. Packed tightly together throughout the three laps, the three Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs were the fastest to the finish line. The points accumulated by the team mean Citroën keeps its 172-point lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
What they had to say
Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “Yvan had a good day in qualifying: he was a tenth of a second off pole position and his place on the front row means he can aim for a win tomorrow. José María hit the wall on several occasions and he nearly missed out on a spot in Q3. We don’t know what happened yet, but he wasn’t able to complete his lap and he will have to deal with two average positions on the starting grid. We didn’t think we would be able to challenge for victory in MAC3, as Pechito’s car seemed to run into a problem. But everything worked fine once the tyres had been changed. The gaps are very small on this circuit and in these conditions, and that suggests the races could be interesting, despite the lack of overtaking opportunities.”
Yvan Muller: “I’m happy with my qualifying. Every time I went out on the track, I put everything I had into it to make sure I made it through to the next stage. From Q1 to Q3, I had to string together four runs, going flat-out in every one. That’s how tight it was. In my Q3 lap, I cut across a rumblestrip and part of my suspension got twisted. I then had to cope with substantial vibrations, which is not ideal when you’re going at 240 km/h between the safety barriers! I think it cost me pole position, but a spot on the front row is good enough for me. To win tomorrow, I’ll have to get a better start than Tiago and make sure I’m the first man to the opening bend. After that, you can’t overtake in normal circumstances here. It all seems easy on paper, but motorsport is not so predictable.”
José María López: “Even though I’ve got a comfortable lead in the championship, I’m still attacking hard to get the best result possible. I prefer to make a mistake when trying to be the best rather than playing it safe to secure a minor place. Obviously, I didn’t have the best time of things in qualifying today, but I was still close to winning pole position. It is difficult to say what happened for me in Q3… Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe it was a consequence of my collision in Q2. We’re going to look at that with the team. Tomorrow, I’m going to have to see what I can do from fifth and sixth on the grid. That’s not ideal on a street circuit and it will be hard for me to challenge for a win. But I’ll try to score as many points as I can to maintain my lead in the overall standings. Winning a third world title remains my main goal.”
Results and standings
1. Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)
2. Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
3. Norbert Michelisz (Honda Civic WTCC)
4. Rob Huff (Honda Civic WTCC)
5. José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
6. Thed Bjork (Volvo S60 WTCC)
7. Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
8. Tom Chilton (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
9. Nick Catsburg (Lada Vesta WTCC)
10. Tom Coronel (Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1)
17. Grégoire Demoustier (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
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