Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani is hoping for more podiums as the 2016 World Touring Car Championship season progresses, after the Moroccan racer took home a trophy for a second-place finish in the opening race in France.
With a second place finish in the reverse-grid opening race, Bennani has now scored podiums in two back-to-back meetings following a podium in the season finale in Qatar in 2015.
The Morrocan racer now leads the WTCC Trophy for independent racers as a result of also finishing eighth in race two, and says he is very pleased with his season start despite also carrying 80 kg more than his rivals due to Citroën suffering under the compensation weight system.
“To start the championship with one podium overall and two victories in WTCC Trophy, it’s very nice to start like this,” said Bennani. “I hope that I can stay like this all year.
“In the second race I was struggling a little bit with Tom Coronel, because he stayed on the grid and I had to really struggle.
“When I realised I have directly on both sides a Volvo and the LADA of Valente, and after all I want to fight for the WTCC Trophy, when you are leading you don’t want to crash and that’s why with Hugo [Valente] I was trying, but I saw that we maybe needed to crash to overtake. [I decided to] stay out of the result, so I stayed a little bit [more] gentle in this race.”
In race one Bennani admits that he decided to not push leader Rob Huff too hard for the win, given that the Honda is not also battling in the independents category.
“I knew that I was P1 in the [WTCC] Trophy, so I don’t want to fight, to have something [go wrong] with the car or to crash somewhere. So that was it, I had to keep a good level. It’s very good for me to finish with the second place.”
“When I was close I thought that I have to manage with my engineer to know where we are. But it’s also a big risk because at the end we are not here to fight and to give a big opportunity to third to take our place.
“For sure I closed the gap a little bit and afterwards he pushed a little bit, but in the last three laps I had big understeer so I needed also to manage [my tyres]. We have 80 kg more than the other cars so we destroy the front tyres more. But I’m really happy.”