Citroën will start the defence of their World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) crown in Argentina next week, with the marque represented on the grid with five C-Elysée cars.
The French brand head into their second season of touring car racing with an expanded line-up. Joining champion José María López, Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb in the official works team is 2014 part-time racer Ma Qing Hua. In addition a fifth, independent, car will be entered for Mehdi Bennani by Sébastien Loeb Racing.
Compared to the extensive pre-season testing programme the manufacturer ran in 2013 and 2014 in the run up to its maiden WTCC campaign, Citroën have done relatively little testing since the end-of-season event in Macau last year, instead opting to focus on its rallying campaign.
“We haven’t done a lot of testing this winter,” explained Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton. “Our technical team was focused on getting the new DS 3 WRC homologated. That said, we had already worked on some changes to the cars, which will be showcased at Termas and throughout the season.
“The five Citroën C-Elysée WTCC competing in Argentina have a new front suspension system and an altered aerodynamic setup. Each of our drivers has prepared very conscientiously, in his own way. They all want to do the best they can and they all want to win!
“Just like last year, the watchwords will be team spirit and respect on the track. We are expecting fierce competition, and our drivers will have to work together to make sure Citroën comes out on top. Our goals are simple: to do as well as we did in 2014 and retain our titles!”
Reigning champion ‘Pechito’ López will compete this year with the number 37 on his car, forgoing the opportunity to take the number 1 for his lucky number.
López, who won twice in Argentina in 2014, will kick off his title defence at his ‘home’ circuit near Termas de Río Hondo.
“It’s exciting to be starting my title defence at my home circuit,” said the 31-year-old. “Everyone who was at Termas last year saw how passionate the Argentinian people are about motor sport. Everyone will be behind me, at a track I know like the back of my hand.
“It is going to be vital to start the season well, and if there’s one place where I can do that, it’s here! Every year, the first round brings its fair share of challenges. I haven’t changed, but my rivals know all about me now. They know what I’m capable of, and they’ll have me in their sights!”
Four-time champion Muller admits that he feels no pressure ahead of the new season, having changes his approach over the off-season.
“The start of this season will be different from other seasons, as we will be starting a long way from home, and in the middle of summer to boot,” explained Muller. “The first race of the season is always a special occasion, with lots of changes to the cars, the livery and the driving personnel.
“I’m in a good frame of mind. I feel calm and I don’t feel any pressure. I can’t wait to get going. It’s been a long winter. I’ve thought a lot about last season and about what I needed to change to get back to my best. I’m confident about the improvements made to the car, and the team has a year’s experience behind it now, which will be invaluable in helping us hit the ground running.”
Sébastien Loeb makes it clear that he no longer wants to be seen as the ‘third Citroën driver’ and is kene to fight for more victories in 2015, to add to the two he took in 2014.
“I’m not used to such a long off-season and I can’t wait to get out there again,” said Loeb, who took part in the Monte Carlo Rally at the start of the year – his first WRC event since 2013. “My goal is to use the experience I have gained to keep on improving. I want to compete with Pechito and Yvan for the top places, score plenty of points and win more regularly.
“With five new circuits on the calendar this year, local experience won’t count for as much, and that will be good for me. The changes made to the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC have worked well in our test sessions. Let’s hope that they will work on the other circuits too, starting with Termas!”
Finally, Chinese driver Ma will get a full-season crack at the WTCC in 2015 in a fourth works car. The 27-year-old is thus the first Chinese driver to complete in a full season of WTCC racing.
“I’m really happy to be carrying on with Citroën Racing, and to be racing a full season too,” said Ma, who won once in 2014. “Competing as often as the others can only help me to feel more at ease with the car.
“I prepared over the winter, with plenty of physical training and two good test sessions. I think the technical changes suit my driving style.
“I want to finish every race, and in a good position too. It’s about time we saw more Chinese flags on the podiums! Unlike my teammates, I haven’t raced at Termas before. On the simulator, it seemed like a tough circuit. The track is slippery, particularly when it’s hot, but that’s the same for everyone!”