Citroën’s Yvan Muller admits that this year’s World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) title battle is “done and dusted” for him, after José María López widened the gap to 74 points in Japan.
Muller heads to Shanghai this weekend with an almost impossible task; with only 55 points on offer in one weekend, the Frenchman has to try to reduce the deficit by a substantial amount to remain in contention with only three rounds to go in 2015.
“There’s not much suspense anymore,” admitted Muller, who was hit by a rare retirement in Japan. “Even if Pechito [López] were to come away from Shanghai without a point to his name, he wouldn’t be in danger, as he would still have a healthy lead with four races to go.
“You never know what might happen, but as far as I’m concerned it’s done and dusted. Nevertheless, I still want to enjoy the end of the season and push for victory.”
Reigning champion López himself was on a rare receiving end of misfortune last time out in Motegi, picking up a puncture early on in race two which saw him suffer just his second retirement in his WTCC career.
“I’m sticking to my policy of trying to get the best possible result on every occasion,” said López, who refuses to rest on his laurels. ”We saw at Motegi that you can find yourself out of contention after one turn. I can’t control everything. You also need a bit of luck to win races and titles.
“I’m happy to be returning to Shanghai, a circuit where I did well last year and which holds excellent memories for us, as it is where we won the Manufacturers’ title. I hope we do just as well this year. We’ve certainly got the potential to do so.”
With four-time champion Muller no longer looking at a title tilt, he must look to defend the runner-up spot in the championship from Sébastien Loeb, who hopes to close the 24-point deficit to his compatriot.
“When you’re not first, it doesn’t really matter if you finish second or third,” said Loeb. “But second is still better than third. I’m not going to focus on that. Above all I just want to put in some good performances.”
Aside from the driver’s titles, Citroën will likely secure the manufacturer’s crown in Shanghai, where the marque needs to amass just 58 points. The team have so far averaged 87 points per meeting in 2015, making the title honours a mere formality in China, Citroën’s biggest global market.
“Winning our second consecutive world title in Shanghai would be the ideal scenario,” said Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton. “But we never take anything for granted and we won’t relax until after the finish.
“We want to show a bit of panache like we did last year, when we claimed the top four places in an FIA WTCC race for the first time.”