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Citroën drivers looking forward to Nordschleife return

Citroën Racing’s José María López and Yvan Muller are both looking forward to the World Touring Car Championship’s return to the Nürburgring Nordschleife this week, with López calling the event ‘the most important of the year’ along with his home race.

Both López and Muller took a win apiece at the circuit in 2015, with both drivers also finishing on the podium in both races.

For defending champion López, the event is a highlight on the WTCC calendar.

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“This circuit is fantastic,” said the Argentine. “For me, it’s the most important race of the year along with my home meeting in Argentina.

“I haven’t had a lot of experience with rally cars, but I think the sensations are pretty similar. You’re thrown about from one side to the other, your car jumps up and down… and yet this is a track. It is nicknamed ‘the Green Hell’ for a reason! Each lap lasts over eight minutes, and you can’t relax at any stage.

“Personally, my favourite part is the final section. In the last few kilometres, there’s quite a fluid sequence of turns and you know whether you’re having a good lap or not. During testing, the final straight was where you could relax a little more. That certainly won’t be the case in the races, because slipstreaming will offer huge overtaking opportunities.

“It’s a bit like a street circuit: you gradually build your confidence. I’ve done a lot of work on the Citroën Racing simulator, with a full day during which I completed thirty or so laps. We had a good setup last year, but the engineers have kept on working to try to improve it.

“Once again, we will be carrying the maximum ballast of 80 kg. As there are not many very slow turns here, that weight will penalise us less than elsewhere, but we will still have to contend with inertia on the big bends.”

Muller, meanwhile, admits that he was surprised to have taken the win in race two last year, emphasising that any erros made at the Nordschleife are amplified due to its unique nature.

“For what it’s worth, the long straight at the Nürburgring is the same length as the entire Marrakech circuit we raced on two weeks ago,” explains Muller. “Generally, people say you need to have done a hundred laps to really get to know the Nordschleife. And I’m not convinced you can ever really fully get to grips with such a circuit!

“You need to strike the right balance between risk-taking and the time you can gain. In particular, you need to focus on the big curves leading into the long straights. If you take your foot off the gas slightly when you should be going at full tilt, you can lose entire seconds!

“That win [in 2015] surprised me, as I didn’t really feel that I had found my feet on the circuit. My experience grew as the laps progressed, and driving on the Nordschleife is now a pleasure.

“I came back a few weeks ago for a day, which enabled me to get back in the groove. That’s important, because the way you drive is really what makes the biggest difference here.”

Unusually, the WTCC will operate on a Thursday to Saturday timetable this week, kicking off with testing and practice on Thursday.

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