Citroën continued its dominance of the 2014 World Touring Car Championship as Yvan Muller and José María López secured their third victories of the season at the high speed Salzburgring.
“Despite the fact that our opponents have improved considerably, we have pulled off two great wins,” CitroënRacing Team Principal Yves Matton said about the Salzburgring races.
“Yvan produced a perfect performance in race 1, before falling foul of another stroke of bad luck. To come out on top in race 2, 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.”
Muller started round 9 of the season from Pole Position and the early laps saw him under pressure from Championship leader and team-mate Lopez, the Argentine having got ahead of Sébastien Loeb at the start of the race.
López dropped back a position on lap 8 after missing his braking point for the first chicane and finished behind Dutchman Tom Coronel, while Muller took his third victory of the season to close the gap to Lopez in the drivers’ Championship.
“In the first race, my start wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough for me to keep the lead,” explained Muller.
“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.
Round ten saw Muller start 10th and López 7th and the team faced an uphill task if they were to secure another double victory. Mulller’s charge was over after one lap after he was caught up in an opening lap collision and despite getting the wreckage of the #1 Citroën back to the pits, he sat out the remainder of the race having fallen a lap down.
Muller pinned his retirement on his team-mate forcing him off the track: “In race 2, 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.”
López had made his way up to fifth and the first of the non Honda drivers’ as the race was suspended to allow for the track to be cleared up.
Once the race went live again, Lopez used the superior straight line speed of the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC to work his way to the front of the field, and he never looked back as he secured his third win of the season and fourth WTCC victory in just 11 races.
“I got off to a good start in race 1 and grabbed second place at the chicane,” explained López, who extended his Championship advantage over Muller to 41 points ahead of the trip to Moscow in two weeks time.
“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 2. 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,” the Argentine driver concluded.
Loeb had a quiet weekend in Austria as he secured a fourth place finish in the opening encounter having started from second on the grid. Loeb followed that up with a seventh place finish in the second race of the day having started from ninth on the reserve grid.
The Frenchman admits that he couldn’t make more progress in the second race due to being unable to pass those ahead of him on the straights.
“In race 1, the key moment for me came at the first chicane,” explained Loeb, who finds himself 45 points off team-mate Lopez in the Drivers’ Championship.
“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.
Speaking about race 2, Loeb added: “I made an excellent start to race 2, 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.”