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201621 Apr

Jose-Maria-Lopez

 

Jose Maria Lopez emerged victorious in FIA WTCC meeting at the Slovakia Ring, in a main race that was still undecided going into the final bend. The Citroën Total driver has established himself as the man to beat in 2016, despite the 80kg of ballast carried by his Citroen C-Elysee WTCC.

 

Spectators arriving at the Slovakia Ring were met with glorious sunshine as, in accordance with the new regulations, the top ten from qualifying lined up in reverse order on the grid for the opening race. That meant Jose Maria Lopez began from eighth place, and Yvan Muller from tenth.

 

Mehdi Bennani made a sensational start from the front row to take the lead. In the chasing pack, Pechito Lopez and Yvan Muller also made headway, climbing to fifth and sixth place respectively by the end of the first lap.

 

López soon tried to make his way past Tarquini, but strayed a little too wide, allowing Muller to slip through. The two Citroen C-Elysee WTCCs remained locked together until lap seven, when Lopez seized an opportunity to regain the upper hand.

 

With three laps to go, Tiago Monteiro took the lead, with Mehdi Bennani then having to devote his energy to keeping Rob Huff at bay until the chequered flag.

 

The final lap also saw an impressive move from Norbert Michelisz, who passed Yvan Muller before putting pressure on Jose Maria Lopez. The two-time World Champion held firm to cling on to his fifth place, while his teammate crossed the finish line in seventh.

 

After a one-hour break, the mechanics were able to prepare the cars for the main race. When the lights went out, Yvan Muller made an uncertain start from pole. Pechito Lopez, in contrast, got away superbly, catapulting himself past two of his rivals and into the lead. After being hit by Nick Catsburg at the first turn, Yvan Muller found himself in third.

 

The four-time World Champion then dropped a further five places after a collision with Rob Huff.

 

An inauspicious start for the Citroen clan was then compounded as Lopez was overtaken by Catsburg. Despite significant vibrations from the rear of his C-Elysee WTCC, Pechito tried to stay on Catsburg’s tail, while keeping a watchful eye on Tiago Monteiro behind him.

 

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