*Citroën clinches second FIA world manufacturers’ title*
*Tarquini fends off López in thrilling race-two podium battle
*Bennani claims a Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy victory double
José María López and Yvan Muller combined to help Citroën secure a second FIA World Touring Car Manufacturers’ Championship* by claiming a win apiece in ROSNEFT WTCC Race of China at the Shanghai International Circuit today.
López, from Argentina, took the opening honours from the DHL-presented pole position before Frenchman Muller pulled off a stunning overtaking manoeuvre to snatch victory from Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini in race two. Sébastien Loeb followed Muller home in the opening counter with López unable to oust Italian Tarquini for the runner-up spot in the second event. López heads to the inaugural WTCC Race of Thailand next month leading the standings by 75 points.
Morocco’s Mehdi Bennani scored a Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy double but there was frustration for local hero Ma Qing Hua. After a slow getaway from the front row of the grid in race one, the Chinese driver was forced to retire with a driveshaft glitch. Meanwhile, Hugo Valente started the reverse-grid second race from pole but contact with Tarquini damaged his Chevrolet and caused him to spin, much to the frustration of the young Frenchman who remonstrated with Tarquini afterwards.
RACE ONE ROUND-UP: LÓPEZ MAKES IT WIN NUMBER EIGHT FROM POLE
José María López made it eight wins for the season by leading throughout. Shanghai resident Ma Qing Hua had been expected to take the fight to the reigning world champion but a sluggish start dropped him out of contention as an incident-packed opening lap resulted in the safety car being deployed while Tom Coronel’s damaged Chevrolet was recovered. While López was able to edge ahead out front, fellow Citroën drivers Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb became embroiled in a close fight for second with Muller prevailing in a podium lockout for the French firm. Nicky Catsburg finished fourth for LADA Sport Rosneft having pressured Loeb for third after the restart. Mehdi Bennani took the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy honours in fifth with Norbert Michelisz, who started P15 on the grid in his Honda, grabbing sixth from Nicolas Lapierre on the final lap. Lapierre was subsequently excluded when post-race technical checks discovered his LADA Vesta’s turbo exceeded the 2.5-bar limit. Ma was a dejected eighth until an attempt to pass Michelisz ended with an off-track moment as a faltering driveshaft took hold, forcing him out. Ma’s misfortune let in Hugo Valente (Chevrolet Cruze) for eighth after the Frenchman overtook Honda driver Tiago Monteiro and Grégoire Demoustier. However, Monteiro fought back to snatch the place with three laps remaining, while Demoustier pitted. Stefano D’Aste finished ninth with Ma classified P10. Rob Huff was eliminated in an opening-lap collision with Gabriele Tarquini. Tom Chilton also retired with damage to the front of his Chevrolet after contact with Monteiro. John Filippi’s career-best seventh on the grid ended in disappointment after he was punted into a spin on lap one and retired soon after.
RACE TWO ROUND-UP: MULLER OUTGUNS TARQUINI FOR GLORY
Yvan Muller completed a dream weekend for Citroën by claiming career win number 46 to put the French make’s second WTCC Manufacturers’ title success beyond doubt. The four-time champion said preserving his Yokohama tyres in the early running meant he had more pace in the closing stages to catch and pass Honda’s Gabriele Tarquini, who had led for eight laps but was unable to prevent Muller from snatching top spot on the following tour when his Civic began to understeer. But the Italian gained some consolation by fending off a determined José María López for second place in a thrilling fight with the Civic taking the position by 0.025s. Sébastien Loeb claimed fourth with Rob Huff the top LADA home in fifth followed by Tiago Monteiro and Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy winner Mehdi Bennani. Local hero Ma Qing Hua was eighth, Nicolas Lapierre ninth and John Filippi P10. Norbert Michelisz and Grégoire Demoustier completed the finishers. Pole-sitter Hugo Valente lost the lead at the start before squeezing ahead of Tarquini when the Italian went slightly wide at the first turn. However, contact between the pair put Valente sideways at turn three. Although he recovered, damage to his Chevrolet in a subsequent collision caused him to spin before he limped back to the pits to retire. Nicky Catsburg also failed to go the distance. Toms Chilton and Coronel were unable to make the start due to damage picked up in race one.
YOKOHAMA DRIVERS’ TROPHY: BENNANI IS BEST INDEPENDENT
Sébastien Loeb Racing Citroën runner Mehdi Bennani claimed a double victory in the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy to keep his title hopes alive. Category leader Norbert Michelisz charged through from a lowly qualifying effort to finish race one in second with Hugo Valente and Stefano D’Aste completing the finishers as Grégoire Demoustier, John Filippi, Tom Chilton and Tom Coronel all retired. Filippi hit back from his disappointment in the first race to finish second to Bennani in race two with Michelisz, Demoustier and D’Aste also scoring.
RACE WINNER QUOTES (full transcript available at http://media.fiawtcc.com)
José María López (race one winner): “First I have to congratulate all the Citroën Racing team for the championship and to say thank you not just to the people here at the track but also at the factory. They have done a great job and gave us a fantastic car again this year. In the beginning I thought Ma was next to me because I didn’t see him in the mirror. Then I realised he had a problem and after that I tried to do a quick race knowing the priority was to finish without doing anything stupid. The battle with Gabriele in race two is one of the reasons why I love motorsport. To have a fight with a guy like him, who I have so much respect for, was very nice. Unfortunately for me I couldn’t pass but I knew it was still good for my championship. I tried to pass him and we finished really close. I’m going away with 75 points. The objective was not to lose any points and it’s looking very good for the next race in Thailand.”
Yvan Muller (race two winner): “I wasn’t really expecting to be in the top 10 in qualifying so I certainly wasn’t expecting to win. Fortunately we could finish in the top five [in Q3]. I had two good starts, I had a good car that gave me the opportunity to pass some cars and have a good pace and all the scenarios went in the right direction for me. I am pleased for that and of course for Citroën, which deserved what they did for the second time because they are the best. From the beginning of the second race I was looking after my tyres and step-by-step I came back to Gabriele. He closed the door at the end of the straight before turn 14 and I knew it might be the only opportunity to overtake him. I used that opportunity and fortunately it worked.”