José María López believes that he and his Citroën team face a ‘hard task’ when the second round of the World Touring Car Championship takes place in Slovakia this weekend, due to the effects of their extra ballast.
The reigning champions will again be forced to carry the full 80 kg of compensation weight this weekend while their rivals run with none, thanks to the changes to the system introduced for 2016.
Despite winning in France with the extra weight, López still believes that the ballast will have a significant effect on the C-Elysées, although he does not think it will preclude him from being in the hunt for another victory.
“The start to the season was as tough as we had feared,” said the Argentine racer. “But we managed to win and we came away from Paul Ricard with lots of positives. In Slovakia, I’m expecting our task to be harder still. It’s the longest circuit of the year, with the exception of the Nordschleife, and the tyres are going to suffer on the high-speed sections.
“We’re going to try to limit the effects of the ballast and it would be fantastic if we could achieve another win.”
One week after the Slovakiaring comes the third round of the season at the Hungaroring, where the compensation weight will be recalculated based on the first two events of the season. That is certain to at least mean an increase in weight for the French manufacturers’ rivals.
“What I’m most looking forward to is the Hungaroring, when the playing field will be levelled,” added López. “On paper, it’s not the most exciting circuit, but there’s always a really warm atmosphere. And the new surface could make driving more enjoyable.”
Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton adds that the next three weeks will be crucial for the championship battle, with three rounds taking place in that time, amounting to a quarter of the season.
“With a strong performance at Paul Ricard under its belt, the team felt it had put in some good work, but immediately turned its attention to the upcoming meetings,” said Matton. “A quarter of our season is condensed into the next 24 days, and we mustn’t let up.
“The cars have been serviced in our Versailles workshops, and the drivers have practised hard on the simulator to prepare as best they can. We are preparing for a tough weekend in Slovakia, but we don’t intend to let the opportunity for a good result slip by.”