Returning to ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport in 2017 for his first shot at driving a Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, the British driver is one of the favourites for what would be his second FIA World Touring Car Championship title to add to the crown he claimed with Chevrolet in 2012. He talks testing, beautiful cars and rekindling old friendships.
You’re back with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport for 2017. How have your pre-season preparations gone so far?
“We’ve had a fantastic start. It’s only testing, but it gives me confidence that what we’re doing and the way we’re learning the car is in the right direction. We’re a little bit ahead of the [Sébastien] Loeb Racing guys and that team has had a few years of experience with the Citroën now. But I feel very happy with the car and the team has done a great job. I don’t want to say we’re not trying to be quick because we are, but we’re working through a test plan which doesn’t mean we’re putting everything together to be as quick as we can. But we completed a lot of kilometres today, we did a race run and I’m very happy with the car.”
Are you surprised you’ve been so quick, so soon?
“No, you can never be surprised with a car that’s won three world championships, but it’s just beautiful, it works and it’s as simple as that.”
The official WTCC pre-season test took place at Monza and the championship will be returning to the track for the first time since 2013 at the end of April. Excited?
“l love this place, it’s brilliant, just spectacular. When you drive in through the park it’s just beautiful. It’s been sorely missed from the WTCC for the last three years and it’s going to provide some fantastic racing – it always did and always will. I’m very happy it’s back on the calendar.”
How much confidence do you get from a successful test programme?
“We tested in Navarra and straight away we were quick compared to the Loeb guys. We came to Monza and we were quick. I feel very happy with the car, I’ve adapted really well to it and the mechanics have adapted well too. Citroën have helped out a lot – my guys have been to the factory working on the car with the Citroën mechanics to really learn and understand it – not to give us a head start, but to help us catch up as much as possible. That’s paying dividends because the changes on the car are making it quicker and quicker all the time. It’s just a dream to drive and I’m quietly smiling.”
What’s it like to be back with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport?
“Brilliant. I loved working with this team in 2013, and I’ve worked with them since and stayed very good friends and in contact with [team boss] René [Münnich]. It’s just nice, there is zero pressure. I can make my own decisions and we’re free. The feeling of that is something I have to say is quite special. After 13 years in this championship, I’m ready for this change.”
Finally, what can you achieve this season?
“I’m in a strong position with more experience and of course with the ultra-competitive Citroën package. When René approached me with the idea of a Huff-Citroën/Münnich Motorsport attack on the WTCC for 2017 it was an opportunity that I simply could not pass on. It is a year when it’s quite possible for a private team to be WTCC champions, and that is our number one goal.”