López and Muller finish on a high
José María López found the perfect way of rounding off the FIA World Touring Car Championship season that has seen him crowned world champion for the second time*, picking up his seventh pole position and tenth race win in 2015.
Yvan Muller won the very last race of the year to seize the runner-up spot from Sébastien Loeb by a single point. After a podium finish in race two, Ma Qing Hua secured fourth place in the final overall standings, meaning Citroën achieved the unprecedented feat of monopolising the top four positions in the drivers’ championship, and the manufactuer set a new record for points overall. The Citroën Racing team paid a glowing tribute to Sébastien Loeb after a fifteen-year partnership with the driver.
The Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs picked up where they had left off in free practice, successfully negotiating Q1 without any hiccups. Yvan Muller, who was not happy with how his car was handling, opted not to push for a place in Q3. Instead, with the eighth-fastest time, just ahead of Ma Qing Hua, the driver from Alsace assured himself a good position on the starting grid for race two.
First to go in Q3 was Mehdi Bennani, who produced an excellent lap clocked at 2:01.311. Sébastien Loeb, Nick Catsburg and Hugo Valente failed to match the performance of the Sébastien Loeb Racing driver, Bennani. However, José María López was in majestic form with a time of 2:00.947, which meant the Argentine driver clinched his seventh pole position of the season, equalling the record he set in 2014.
Valente got the better of Loeb on lap two. The battles between Valente and Loeb and Qing Hua and Muller were closely fought throughout the race, but there was to be no overtaking to add spectacle to the proceedings, and Pechito López duly marched on to his tenth race win of the year.
After a short break, the cars lined up on the grid for race two. Having qualified on the front row, Tom Coronel started from the pit lane, giving Ma Qing Hua a clear run. It was Yvan Muller who took advantage of the situation, however, reaching the first turn in second place, just behind John Filippi. The safety car was brought out at the end of the very first lap after a collision that prevented two cars from playing any further part. Having been hit by a competitor in the first few turns, José María López found himself way back in twelfth place.
After four laps, the race resumed and Yvan Muller was soon putting pressure on the leader. One lap later, the driver of Citroën C-Elysée WTCC n°68 slipped through a gap that had been left open, but Filippi cut across his path and the two cars collided. Yvan emerged from turn n°1 in the lead, a few seconds before Filippi was handed a drive-through penalty for starting too early.
Lap after lap, Yvan Muller extended his lead over Ma Qing Hua, who in turn secured his second place. Attention turned to the tussle for third place. Norbert Michelisz was holding off Sébastien Loeb, who needed a podium finish to hang onto his championship runner-up position. But once again, there was to be no change in the race order before the chequered flag, with Yvan Muller securing his sixth victory of the year. Further down the field, however, the pack had been livened up somewhat by José María López, who produced some impressive overtaking to climb to eighth place.
* Subject to official publication of the results by the FIA.