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Challenging streets of Vila Real next up for Citroën

Citroën’s José María López and Yvan Muller are looking forward to the challenge of the World Touring Car Championship races on the streets of Vila Real, with Muller seeking his first win of the season.

The French manufacturer won both races around the Portuguese circuit last year, with López and Ma Qing Hua taking victory on the demanding circuit.

Muller has not yet won in 2016, with the Frenchman also only scoring one podium at the circuit in 2015, and he heads to the circuit looking for his first win of the year and hoping for hot weather once again in the town in northern Portugal.

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“This street circuit is one of the biggest challenges of the season, perhaps the toughest after the Nürburgring,” said Muller. “You need a lot of commitment to go fast between the safety barriers, particularly on the big descent with its really quick left-hand turn.

“The surface is quite bumpy and overtaking opportunities are rare. It might be better this year as the course has been changed slightly with that in mind.

“I remember last year being a testing weekend because it was hot. I hope it’s the same this year. I’m beginning to get sick of the rain!

“From a technical point of view, we’ll need to be careful with our brakes. There will be a lot of pressure on them, given the 80kg of ballast our cars will be carrying.”

López heads into the coming race weekend with little pressure on his shoulders, given that the Argentine racer has an over 100 point advantage in the championship standings, being 105 points ahead of his nearest rival Mehdi Bennani.

The defending champion warned of the challenges of the circuits, which features a high-speed configuration lined with safety barriers, leaving almost no room for mistakes.

“You need to stay really humble on this circuit,” said López. “It is full of difficulties: tight turns, fast, blind bends, chicanes where you need to jump over the rumblestrips… It’s not always easy to build up speed and maintain the right line. The slightest error can ruin your lap or send you crashing off!

“I like the challenge of Vila Real. I also like the atmosphere in the town. The Portuguese people are passionate about motorsport and they make sure we know it!”

Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton added that he hopes Muller will finally take his first win of the season, with the experienced touring car ace currently fifth overall in the standings with less than half his team-mates tally of points.

“We are on track,” insisted Matton. “It has been a positive first half to the season for us, as we are well-placed to retain our world titles.

“The technical team has skilfully negotiated the changes to the regulations, which meant we had to carry 80 kg of ballast in the first few meetings. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCC remains the best car in the competition, but we know that our opponents are catching up. We have to keep working to exploit the car’s full potential.

“I also hope that Yvan gets his first win soon. He has been dogged by chronic bad luck and he deserves to be back in the top three of the overall standings.”

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