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Citroën surprised to be on top with extra weight

Citroën’s José María López admits he was surprised to have taken pole position in qualifying for the World Touring Car Championship in France, considering that Citroën are carrying 80 kg more than their rivals.

López scored his 15th career pole position in qualifying at Circuit Paul Ricard, beating Honda’s Tiago Monteiro by 0.263 seconds.

Despite the feeling of normality about the Argentine being top of the standings, he expressed some surprise at the result.

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“First of all, I want to thank and pay tribute to the Citroën Racing team,” said López. “It’s incredible that we managed to cope with an 80 kg handicap. After missing out on pole position here in 2014 and 2015, I was expecting it to be difficult to achieve this year too.

“My first sector in Q3 wasn’t brilliant, but I won it on the Signes curve and the “Double-droite du Beausset”. Every pole position is important, but this one was really special. I really had to attack hard to win it.”

Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton echoed López’s sentiments that getting pole position wasn’t going to be a given this year at their home race.

“Winning pole position was our main objective today,” said Matton. “With the ballast, we were far from certain to achieve it… But the top-class work of our team and the talent of our drivers enabled us to live up to our billing. As a result, we hadn’t devoted a lot of time or energy to preparing for MAC3. Our strategy was simple: the fastest driver from qualifying should lead the way, with the second and third fastest behind him.

“Congratulations to Pechito, Yvan [Muller] and Mehdi [Bennani] for putting Citroën atop the World Championship!”

Muller qualified his C-Elysée in third, losing time in the final sector of his Q3 run despite being quickest up until that point. The former champion is not entirely sure where it went wrong at the end of his lap.

“I got a good time in Q2 and maybe I relied too heavily on that in Q3,” said Muller. “My first sector was good. I oversteered a little at the Beausset but that isn’t where I lost two tenths on José.

“Overall, the car worked really well. We’re going to analyse the data to try and understand where I wasn’t quite so quick. In any case, it’s a great overall result for the team.”

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