LÓPEZ AND MULLER HEAD FOR BENNANI’S HOME TURF
Over the years, Marrakech has become one of the highlights of the FIA WTCC season. Now the circuit is inaugurating a new track, completely different from its predecessor. José María López and Citroën currently lead the World Championship standings and will be looking to continue their momentum, while Yvan Muller will be seeking his first race win of 2016.
The Citroën Total drivers will be joined by Mehdi Bennani, who will enjoy unstinting support from his home crowd after a stellar start to the season for the SLR team in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.
The Moulay El Hassan circuit in Marrakech, which made its first appearance on the FIA WTCC calendar in 2009, was, until now, known for its long straight sections, punctuated by chicanes and connected by one hairpin and a few fast curves. This atypical circuit, lined by concrete safety walls, had been a happy hunting ground for the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs.
In 2014, in its very first race in the championship, Citroën Total produced a resounding performance with José María López, Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller monopolising the podium, before pulling off another one-two finish in race two. Last year, five Citroën drivers – López, Qing Hua, Loeb, Bennani and Muller – took the top five places in a race for the first time in the brand’s motorsport history. In the second race, the team again won all three podium spots, with Yvan Muller victorious, demonstrating beyond doubt the supremacy of the C-Elysée on this 4.545km circuit.
It’s all change in 2016, with a new circuit in the same location but with different characteristics to those of the old track. The cars will drive anti-clockwise around this new circuit, which twists and turns around the paddock before incorporating part of the old track, but in the opposite direction. At just 2.971km, it will be one of the shortest circuits in FIA WTCC history.
“I really liked the old circuit, which was like nothing else on the planet,” said José María López. “After my preparations on the Citroën Racing simulator, I get the impression the new track will be very slow. We won’t go quicker than 200kph and I can’t really see any good overtaking spots. The track seems narrow, without any big turns where you might slip past a rival. It’s going to be a real challenge, particularly in qualifying, with the course being so short. The times are going to be very close and the slightest error will be more costly here than elsewhere. In any case, I’m happy to be back in Morocco after such a cold start to the season! The atmosphere is always terrific in Marrakech.”
“Like José, I’m sad that the straight sections have been shortened to such an extent. We’ll never get into sixth gear, and maybe not even fifth,” added Yvan Muller. “We’ll need to keep up a good pace on this track. On paper, overtaking opportunities will be limited, but I’ll reserve judgement until I get out there. I’m hoping for a good weekend – better than at the Hungaroring. Yes, I got my first podium of the year, but it’s wins I’m aiming for!”
A national hero, Mehdi Bennani will have the crowd fully behind him. With second-place finishes in France and Slovakia and a win in Hungary, he has been a revelation so far this year in his Citroën C-Elysée WTCC prepared by the SLR team. Currently sitting in third in the World Championship Standings behind José María López and Tiago Monteiro, Mehdi will be looking to continue his fine form. As in the first three meetings, he will line-up alongside Pechito and Yvan in Citroën’s MAC3 team.
After an initial adjustment in Hungary, the compensation weights will be rebalanced once again. The Citroëns will still carry 80kg of ballast, while the Hondas will carry 40kg, the Ladas 30kg, and the Volvos and Chevrolets 0kg.
Thanks to the one-two finishes achieved by Bennani / Chilton and López / Muller at the Hungaroring, Citroën has a 40-point lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
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The Citroën brand:
Citroën harnesses creative flair and technology to enhance well-being. Since 1919 Citroën has made a major contribution to putting cars within reach of the general public, providing practical and purposeful answers to the questions arising in each era. Citroën cars today place a premium on design, comfort and useful technology. With 10,000 customer contact points and presence in over 90 countries, Citroën sold 1.2 million vehicles worldwide in 2015. The brand has also amassed eight manufacturers’ titles in the WRC and two Manufacturers’ FIA World Championship titles from the 2014 and 2015 WTCC seasons.