Citroën heads to Argentina for next weekend’s eighth round of the World Touring Car Championship expecting a ‘huge welcome’ in the motorsport-crazed country, with local driver José María López heading the championship standings.
The first leg of the WTCC’s ‘fly-away’ races takes place at the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, where one year ago the venue hosted the first-ever WTCC round in Argentina.
Almost exactly one year later, the WTCC makes a return visit to the venue, which has since undergone significant improvements. A new pitlane complex awaits the competitors, along with a resurfaced circuit and many other all-round improvements.
The event is expected to generate one of the largest crowds of the season, not least because of the presence of Argentina’s López at the head of the championship.
“Coming to Argentina is always a huge pleasure,” explained Sébastien Loeb, who has visited the country numerous times previously with the World Rally Championship. “The welcome we get from the crowd is incredible. It’s really great to see so many people who are crazy about motorsport.
“I have great memories here, with eight WRC wins, and I hope to add some more in the WTCC. I need to keep improving, especially in the pack, where you have to overtake at the start of the race.”
Most of the attention from the Argentine fans will be on one man, however. López made his WTCC début at his home race in 2013 in a weekend that saw him become one of only a select few drivers to win on his first race weekend in the championship.
31-year-old López admits that the six-week break since the last event in the championship is something he is not used to when he previously raced in the Argentine TC2000 championship.
“When I used to race in Argentina, I would compete in as many as 44 meetings a season,” explained López. “So I can’t wait to get back in my C-Elysée WTCC again.
“Unlike most of the European circuits, I know the Termas track very well, and I have always done well here. That said, I think it will be close with Yvan [Muller] and Séb again. We’re going to have to fight hard, as we have in every race this season.”
López currently holds a 39-point lead over Muller and the Frenchman is all too aware that time is running out to reduce the deficit to his team-mate.
“The Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo is an interesting circuit to drive on,” said the reigning champion. “It’s fast, and there are overtaking opportunities.
“I have to continue to produce really good weekends like I did at Spa-Francorchamps to try and close the gap on Pechito. We have a habit of saying that there’s still a long way to go until the end of the season, but it’s getting closer all the time!”