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Citroën critical of ‘artificial’ changes to WTCC

Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton has criticised as ‘artifical’ the changes to the WTCC race format, including the fact that the maximum amount of compensation weight has increased to 80 kg.

Reigning champions Citroën were forced to race with an additional 20 kg of weight in France compared to 2015, taking their total ballast to 80 kg in the first round of the 2016 World Touring Car Championship.

Given that all of the rest of their rivals were running without any compensation weight, Citroën were unanimously critical of the changes following the opening race weekend of the year.

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The compensation weight will be adjusted after the second event of the season, meaning Citroën will have to wait until Hungary before their rivals gain any ballast.

Furthermore, Matton described the changes to make the reverse-grid race the first race of the weekend as ‘artificial’, preferring instead to focus on the results of the second, or ‘main’ race, which was won by José María López.

“Despite a setup designed to penalise the reigning World Championship team, we have proved that the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC remains the best car in the competition,” said Matton. “I don’t attribute a lot of importance to the result of the opening race, which is far too artificial to reflect the real pecking order. But the performance of Pechito Lopez in the main race is reward for the efforts put in by the whole team over the winter.

“It’s hugely satisfying to be on top of the Drivers’ World Championship and with a bit more luck we could also have led the Manufacturers’ standings.

“It’s going to be a tough weekend in Slovakia, but after that we should be back competing on equal terms with our rivals.”

López himself was unusually critical of the changes to the weight allocation, adding that the only reason that Honda’s Tiago Monteiro had come on so strong at the end of the main race was due to the extra weight in the Citroëns.

“I took a few risks at the start of the main race and I was happy to find myself out in front, ahead of Yvan,” said López. “The weight difference with the other cars was just too big, and that’s what allowed Tiago to go past Yvan and gain ground on me.

“The last few laps were intense. My tyres were about as worn as they can get, and it wasn’t easy to stay in front. I managed to go through Signes quickly, which earned me a bit of breathing space.

“Once again, a massive ‘well done’ to Citroën! We knew it was going to be difficult, but we leave here with our heads held high and leading the World Championship.”

Aside from the weight issue, Yvan Muller had another difficult start to the season after being haned a drive-through penalty for a jump start in the opening race. That meant he could only manage 13th, outside the points.

The former champion did manage fourth in the main race, losing out on a podium position after Monteiro made contact at the final corner at the half-way stage of the race.

“Once again, my season didn’t get off to the greatest start despite a promising performance in qualifying,” said Muller, who had earlier put his car in third in Saturday’s qualifying session. “In race one, I made a mistake at the start and the penalty was justified. That put me out of the running for the points.

“In the main race, I got away really well, but I just couldn’t hold off the Hondas, which were 80 kg lighter. Tiago Monteiro tried a bold move and ran into me, which cost me two places. It’s a shame, and obviously I’m disappointed to finish only fourth.”

The results mean that Citroën trail rivals Honda by one point in the manufacturers’ championship, although López once again leads the drivers’ standings.

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