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Aug 08, 2014 - 03:24 PM
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FIA WTCC Newsletter 32
Posted by: newsla on Aug 08, 2014 - 03:19 PM
Sports Cars
FIA WTCC Newsletter 32


HAS LÓPEZ STAKED A CLAIM ON WORLD CROWN?
Although most of the insiders had predicted Citroën’s domination in this year’s WTCC, not many of them had indicated José María López as the favourite for the Drivers’ Championship.

 

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The Argentine driver had already impressed in the first half of the season, leading the standings from the opening race at Marrakech. However, by pocketing a full booty of points last weekend in his home event at Termas de Río Hondo, López has staked a very serious claim on the World Champion’s crown. Should he eventually claim the title, he would be the second Argentine in history to become FIA World Champion after… Juan Manuel Fangio (1957) and the first South-American since Ayrton Senna (1991).

Lopez’s record during the current season has been relentless so far: seven wins out of fifteen races, five other podium results, four pole positions out of eight qualifying sessions, only one scoreless race (the second one at Moscow Raceway, due to a gearbox problem) and 38.75 points on the average per event, despite the cancellation of the Slovakia Ring’s second race because of torrential rain. Should he continues on this pace, he may target new WTCC seasonal records for victories and points scored; both are currently held by Yvan Muller: nine race wins in 2012 and 433 points in 2011.

Actually, the Frenchman appears to be the only real obstacle between López and the title, but race after race his task becomes more difficult, with a gap of sixty points to fill in the remaining four events. Mathematically is possible, as 220 points are still at stake, but this means that Muller needs to recover more than 15 points at each of the next race meetings. Considering that so far Muller has scored more points than López in three events only (France +11, Hungary +10 and Belgium +2), the odds are not in his favour…

In Short...

ARGENTINE MEDIA SEE WTCC SUCCESS AS A DOOR OPENING

“If there would have been three races, he would have won three.” The comment by the country’s top sports daily Olé may sound over-optimistic, but sums up well the sense of pride that Argentine media and fans felt after the double win of José María López in the two races of the FIA WTCC round at Termas de Río Hondo.

Pechito played perfectly the role of local hero on the track and did not hide his emotions in front of the 50,000 fans that came to Termas to support him over the weekend. There were sincere tears of joy in his eyes on the podium and in the post-race press conference.

The day after, López made first-page headlines in the national press, which used expressions such as “dream day” (La Nación), “take note of the double win” (Olé) or “López gave a lesson” (Clarín), but beyond Pechito’s achievements, it is the FIA WTCC itself that is the focus of attention.

Argentine media are pointing out that Lopez’s example demonstrates the quality of the country’s racers and long motorsports tradition, and should encourage other drivers to try their chance internationally.

Some local stars, such as Matías Rossi and Mauro Giallombardo, admitted in the media that Argentine drivers were less tempted to try to make a career abroad because they can race a lot, reach star status and live of their passion by competing in national series. Pechito’s success in the FIA WTCC may now give some ideas to his colleagues and local media noted that some of the Argentine touring car stars, like Agustín Canapino or Rossi, were seen visiting the paddock at Termas with great interest…

LADA’S GREATEST DAY EVER IN WTCC
The Argentine event marked the greatest day for LADA Sport Lukoil since they joined the WTCC. Rob Huff put in a remarkable effort to give the Russian manufacturer its first leading laps and podium result.

James Thompson provided the icing on the cake by scoring points in both races: tenth and ninth.

These results followed a tireless team work to improve the Granta car that culminated in long test sessions after the previous race meeting at Spa and the introduction of a new front suspension.

Team principal Victor Shapovalov said: “I am very very happy, it was a great result for the team and a reward for the efforts we have put in this season and especially since the last race. An incredible day that made us very proud.”

Huff echoed: “I was so happy to give the team its first WTCC podium. A lot of improvements went into the car, fantastic team work and we were much more competitive. The podium celebration was as enjoyable as any I have ever had. To be able to do this for the guys on the team really meant a lot. I am optimistic for the remaining races, Beijing is tight and twisty with no need for strong aero, which may play to our strengths. Shanghai and Suzuka may be tough, but I really think we could be up for another podium in Macau, or even a race win.”
Thompson added: “That was a fantastic weekend for the team! I am very happy for Rob, it was a deserved podium for all of us! All the cars performed well this weekend and I was happy to score points again. I was very satisfied with the car’s drivability, pace and consistency.”

HONDA SHOWED SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT
Following the test that took place in Valencia in July, the Honda Civic cars have further reduced the gap from the Citroën cars.
Throughout the event in Argentina, the four Honda drivers were consistently among the fastest in the field. This was especially true in Friday’s test (Gabriele Tarquini, third, 0.089 seconds behind the leader) and Saturday’s practices (Mehdi Bennani, third with a gap of four tenths in P1; Tarquini fifth in P2, two tenths behind).

These promises were partially disappointed in the qualifying session, when Norbert Michelisz and Monteiro were the only Honda drivers to reach Q3. The Hungarian was then able to claim a brilliant second position in the first race. “I'm really happy with this result. I made the positions up at the start and was comfortable all race in second position. Only in the last laps did Muller come back at me but the gap was big enough for me to take second place as my best result so far this season and gain more championship points,” he said.

Alessandro Mariani, Managing Director of JAS Motorsport commented: “After the Valencia test we found new ways to improve our competitiveness and this has been evident in Argentina. However, as the Team Principal, I am frustrated at not achieving better final results, but we learned a lot using the latest evolutions in racing conditions and that is encouraging for the future.”

Daisuke Horiuchi, Large Project Leader for WTCC development at Honda R & D echoed: “I am happy as the car showed overall improvement in both the chassis and engine; our continuous development of the engine mapping is now paying off and we are closer to the competition compared to Spa.”

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