José María López admits that he couldn’t have beaten Yvan Muller in qualifying for the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the Slovakiaring, calling his team-mate’s lap “fantastic”.
López was beaten to pole position for the second meeting in succession by Muller, who was 0.223 seconds faster than the points leader. López praised Muller for his lap, and said that Muller was simply the quicker driver on Saturday.
“It was another close battle with Yvan,” said López. “His lap was fantastic and I’m not going to look for excuses: he was just the quickest this afternoon.
“I’m not disappointed because it’s always nicer to be in front but I think this is normal to have Yvan there. He’s a four-time world champion and when he’s not there it’s not normal. I’m very happy to have a fight like this with him, my team-mate and the other guys.
“I’m satisfied with my Q3 lap, as it was the first time I had dipped under 2m 04s this weekend. I lost quite a bit of time in the first sector, which is normally when I’m at my fastest.
“We’ll have to sit down and study the data. I’m not disappointed, even though I would have preferred to be on pole. It’s a good result for the team.”
Muller took his third pole position of the season and admits to having been happy with his car throughout the two free practice sessions which preceded qualifying.
“We got better throughout free practice and with each stage of qualifying,” explained Muller. “I was happy with the balance of my Citroën C-Elysée WTCC in Q1, and we improved the setup further in Q2, before making a final adjustment in Q3.
“The car was perfect; I was able to put my wheels exactly where I wanted them and I managed to produce a near-perfect lap. I want to savour this pole position a little before turning my attention to the races! It’s not an easy circuit for a front-wheel drive [car] and we will have to cope with 60 kg more ballast than the two cars that qualified just behind us.”
Muller is currently 34 points behind leader López in the drivers’ championship after qualifying and the Frenchman has outscored his Argentine rival in the last three events in a row.