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Mehdi Bennani chasing works drive for 2017 season

Mehdi Bennani wants to follow in Norbert Michelisz’s footsteps and secure a factory drive for the 2017 World Touring Car Championship season, having won the Independents category in 2016.

After two years racing with the independent Sébastien Loeb Racing team, Bennani has set his targets high for 2017 – to secure a factory drive in the WTCC.

It will be a tall order for the Moroccan racer, with Citroën departing as a manufacturer at the end of the year, and it being recently announced that LADA will do likewise.

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That leaves just Honda and Polestar as factory-backed outfits in the championship, with limited seats available at the two teams.

Bennani took the WTCC Trophy for independents in 2016, scoring his second-ever WTCC win in the process, at a rai-soaked Hungaroring back in May.

The 33-year-old believes that he has now proved enough in the championship to justify a factory seat, after eight years in the WTCC.

“For the WTCC Trophy winner you want to get the opportunity to have a factory seat or in some way to drive for the factory team,” explained Bennani. “Last year I was fighting with Michelisz and it was about four points [difference] in the end and it was a shame. At the end [of the year] he directly had a factory seat with Honda.

“I still don’t know what will happen but my aim and my focus is to stay in the WTCC, because we also have our local race in Marrakech. It’s a nice championship and everyone is focusing on it in Morocco, where we have live TV coverage. It’s a very strong championship and I hope to stay for next year.”

Bennani added that the season finale today in Qatar is also an important event for him, not least because he is the only Arabic driver in the championship.

“It’s like a second country to come here to Qatar. But there is some stress and pressure also because I want to do my best for the Arabic supporters.

“We are here to fight, we are here to also bring some trophies to Morocco. We will push to the maximum because there are a lot of people coming to follow us and I hope to leave them the best message with a podium finish.”

The final two races of the season take place at 21:20 and 22:35 local time on Friday (18:20 GMT, 19:20 CET and 19:35 GMT, 20:35 CET respectively).

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