Double win for Pechito López at the Nürburgring
José María López proved unstoppable at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife by securing a double victory at the FIA WTCC Race of Germany. The dual success puts the Argentine driver well clear at the top of the World Championship standings, while Citroën has also extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ title chase.
Held as a curtain-raiser for the 24 Hours Nürburgring, the two FIA WTCC races were contested under blue skies, just hours before a hailstorm swept across the Eifel mountains.
Yvan Muller and José María López were placed eighth and ninth on the starting grid for the opening race. The Citroën Total drivers charged through the pack to nestle in behind Tiago Monteiro, Mehdi Bennani and Thed Björk. Bennani lost ground from the first lap and was overtaken. Björk was then forced to withdraw, but not before sending oil splattering onto the windscreen of Muller’s C-Elysée.
Entering the third and final lap, the top three were Monteiro, Muller and López, with all three drivers waiting for the last long straight in the hope of slipstreaming. When Tiago Monteiro crashed out, chaos ensued. Unable to take evasive action in time, Muller ran into him. Pechito narrowly dodged the two stranded leaders and became the first man across the finish line, ahead of Tom Chilton, who had a solid race at the wheel of his SLR team Citroën C-Elysée WTCC.
As the cars did not return to the pit lane between the two races, the mechanics could not even try to repair Muller’s car in time for the main race. José María López started from pole, ahead of Norbert Michelisz, Tom Chilton and Rob Huff.
When the red lights went out, Norbert Michelisz got the best start and moved past Pechito. Even before they reached the Nordschleife, López had reclaimed the lead and quickly opened up a gap between himself and Michelisz. Chilton and Huff completed the leading group.
Throughout the three laps, López held onto his lead while taking care not to wear out his tyres. He finished ahead of Michelisz and Chilton, who heroically held Huff at bay.
For the second time in his FIA WTCC career, José María López scored the maximum 55 points. That means López now has a 69-point lead over Tiago Monteiro in the World Championship. Yvan Muller lies in sixth place, behind Huff, Michelisz and Bennani. Citroën also continues to lead the Manufacturers’ standings.
Now halfway through the season after the German meeting, the World Championship will continue at Russia’s Moscow Raceway on 11 and 12 June.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
José María López: “It’s really special to win both races on this track. I did it in 2014 at Termas de Río Hondo, but I didn’t dare dream of it here, especially with 80kg of ballast. I didn’t really savour the first race, as it wasn’t a victory I went out and earned. I couldn’t get the better of Yvan on the straight, as he was in Tiago’s slipstream. I saw Tiago hit the safety barrier. It was quite a shock and I only had a fraction of a second to react. I’m glad that Tiago and Yvan came out of it unhurt. In the main race, I got a good start, but Norbi’s was even better. I was surprised to find him in front of me. I managed to get back in front and from then on I tried to keep up a good pace while looking after my car and my tyres. At the halfway point of the season, the 55 points I’ve scored this weekend have given me a huge boost in the overall standings. It means the others will have to take risks to come back at me.”
Yvan Muller: “The opening race was going pretty well. The first lap was difficult, though, as Björk’s car was losing oil, which stained my windscreen. When he pulled out, I moved up into second place, which was already good going considering I started from eighth. I knew that if I stayed on Tiago Monteiro’s tail, I could use his slipstream to overtake him on the long final straight. Unfortunately, he got a flat when taking a bend at nearly 250km/h. His car hit the safety barrier and bounced back onto the middle of the track. I braked and locked my wheels as quickly as I could, but I couldn’t avoid hitting him. I was afraid another driver might then run into me, but fortunately everything turned out OK and we emerged unscathed.”