Yvan Muller took advantage of starting race one from pole position to claim his third victory of the FIA World Touring Car Championship season at the Salzburgring on Sunday. However, he was then involved in a pile-up at the start of the second race, forcing him to withdraw. José-María López improved on his podium finish from the first race to win race two, demonstrating his skill with some excellent overtaking as he moved up through the order. Meanwhile, Sébastien Loeb finished fourth and seventh in races one and two respectively.
The weather was fine throughout the weekend at the Salzburgring, attracting large crowds to the Austrian track to bask in the sunshine. Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb shared the front row for race one, while José-María López started from fourth on the grid, alongside Tom Coronel.
When the lights went out, Yvan Muller made a great start to lead into the first chicane. Behind him, Tom Coronel managed to overtake Sébastien Loeb, but José-María López took advantage of that manoeuvre to snatch second spot. The leading two Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs quickly pulled away from the chasing pack, while Sébastien Loeb continued in his efforts to find a way past Tom Coronel.
On lap eight, López slipped up at the chicane and Coronel moved back up into second place. There were no further changes to the standings, with Muller the winner, ahead of Coronel, López and Loeb.
With the top ten drivers from qualifying lining up in reverse order on the starting grid, race two always looked like being an entertaining spectacle. At the start, Yvan Muller was forced off onto the grass and into the crash barrier after he was hit by another car. The safety car was then deployed as Muller reluctantly made his way back to the pits. As the red flag came out, the race was brought to a halt, which gave the mechanics the time to repair C-Elysée n°1. However, Yvan was already a lap behind the other drivers, so decided not to continue.
As racing resumed, José-María López found himself behind a group of four Civics, made up of Tarquini, Monteiro, Michelisz and Bennani. The Argentinian driver then embarked on a heroic recovery, passing his adversaries one by one, by slipstreaming on the straights. Taking his third race win of the season, Pechito has stretched his lead at the top of the overall standings quite considerably. Having spent a long time stuck behind Gianni Morbidelli, Sébastien Loeb finished seventh, after overtaking Mehdi Bennani midway through the race.
The results extend Pechito’s lead in the World Championship standings. He is now 41 points clear of Yvan Muller and a further four points ahead of Sébastien Loeb.
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “Despite the fact that our opponents have improved considerably, we have pulled off two great wins. Yvan produced a perfect performance in race one, before falling foul of another stroke of bad luck. To come out on top in race two, José-María López had to use every ounce of his talent and energy to make the most of an extreme aerodynamic setup. We can be very happy with our results this weekend, as we are still leading the Driver and Team standings.”
José-María López: “I got off to a good start in race one and grabbed second place at the chicane. I wanted to keep up the pressure on Yvan, but I made a mistake when braking at the first corner. I found myself behind Tom Coronel and I didn’t have the speed to get past him. So we chose a more aggressive aerodynamic setup for race two.
“Tom Chilton had an even worse start than I did, and I was able to overtake him. The track is really narrow, there’s not a lot of space and I didn’t see what was going on behind me. At the first chicane, I braked very late to overtake another two cars. After the restart, I managed to move past my opponents, one by one. My Citroën C-Elysée WTCC was exceptional with that setup: it just kept picking up speed on straights. I didn’t relax until the finish line, and I am really happy to have won here, on a circuit that was totally new to me.”
Yvan Muller: “In the first race, my start wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough for me to keep the lead. I didn’t attack too much in the first few laps. I wanted my tyre pressure to increase gradually to avoid problems at the end. Little by little, I opened up a gap on Pechito and then Tom Coronel. Even when you’re out in front on your own, the Salzburgring is a really complex circuit. In race two, I got a better start than Pechito. I caught up with him, but he pushed me off onto the grass. I came back onto the track and I was hit by another car. The mechanics did an amazing job to repair it, but there was no point rejoining the race a lap behind the others.”
Sébastien Loeb: “In race one, the key moment for me came at the first chicane. Tom Coronel slipped past me and then pushed me off onto the grass. I don’t hold it against him. He didn’t do anything unfair and that’s how things work in touring car racing. I lost power and Pechito managed to overtake me. I couldn’t try to get past Coronel as his top speed was at least as fast as mine. I made an excellent start to race two, overtaking several cars in the first few metres. I then found myself in a bit of a bottleneck at the chicane, and once again Pechito was the man to benefit. After the restart, I found myself behind two competitors who were impossible to pass on the straight.”