José Maria López will be the third driver to compete for Citroën Racing in the 2014 WTCC alongside Yvan Muller and Sébastien Loeb.
It was announced earlier this week when the French manufacturer unveiled the details of its sporting programmes during a crowded press conference at Citroën Racing technical centre in Versailles.
Team Principal Yves Matton said: “The challenge is very motivating, but we need to learn about everything in this discipline. We feel that we have worked well on the C-Elysée WTCC, even though we have no real basis for comparison given that the regulations are new for all of the competitors. Muller believes the car has been well designed and this has reassured us in terms of the direction we have taken.”
About the impressive trio of drivers, Matton commented: “After spending the last ten years or so at the top of WRC, we are excited about the idea of writing a new chapter in our shared history with Sébastien Loeb. As it was the case in our previous sporting programmes we have attempted to secure the best drivers for our team. Yvan Muller has been heavily involved in development of the car, and has been one the driving forces behind the progress we have made. But we also have high expectations from José Maria López, who has proven to be very comfortable during his first tests…”
López, a multiple winner of Argentine touring car titles, claimed his first WTCC victory on his maiden appearance earlier this year at Termas de Río Hondo. He has already tested the C-Elysée twice at Valencia and Monza.
FOURTH CITROËN FOR CHINESE DRIVER
Citroën Racing will field a fourth car in selected events of the 2014 WTCC, the additional C-Elysée will be entrusted to a Chinese driver.
This was also announced at Versailles, during the launch of Citroën sporting programmes by Arnaud de Lamothe, Director of Marketing, Communications and Sport: “It’s no secret that Chinese market is extremely important for us. And for this reason we have decided to run a fourth car in some events for a Chinese driver. This will be a great help in promoting the Citroën brand and its sporting activity.”
The plan is to field the fourth car in four or five events: Russia, Japan, China, Macau and possibly one in Europe to give the driver the chance to get used to WTCC racing.
The name of the driver will be unveiled later.
PECHITO LÓPEZ: THIS IS A DREAM!
“I am thirilled. This is a new important step in my racing career!” a delighted José María ‘Pechito’ López said after he was presented by Citroën Racing as the third driver in the 2014 WTCC.
“I hope I will be able to help the team in developing and setting up the car so that we do a good job on the track,” said López who managed to win a WTCC race on his maiden appearance, last Summer at Termas de Río Hondo.
“I think that winning that race was instrumental for being invited to test the Citroën at Valencia and Monza. Then other factors contributed to their decision of hiring me, like my professionalism and working method. It’s not only a matter of driving fast.”
López will team up with four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller and nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb.
“It’s a privilege and an honour to be part of such an impressive team, alongside two monsters like Yvan and Sébastien. I come from Córdoba, a region that is crazy about rally, and to find myself as Loeb’s team-mate is just a dream.”
Pechito is the first Argentine driver to commit in WTCC for the full season. The last time one of his fellow countrymen was in the position to fight for a world title dates back to the 1981 F1 championship, when Carlos Reutemann finished second behind Nelson Piquet.
The only Argentine driver to be sacred World Champion was the legendary Juan-Manuel Fangio who won five F1 titles between 1951 and 1957.
THEY SAID… THEY SAID…
More quotes from Citroën Racing launch at Versailles.
Yves Matton: “It would be pretentious to say that we join WTCC for winning, because we are newcomers. Let’s say that we hope to be able to win races in the second half of the season. Of course winning it’s part of Citroën’s DNA and therefore we compete to win. And the sooner it will happen, the better will be.”
Yvan Muller: “It’s difficult to say if the C-Elysée may be competitive from the beginning. I got the impression that it has been properly designed and is progressing well in the tests. However, the new regulations change all parameters and on top of this the team has no experience in WTCC. We will need an apprenticeship period.”
Sébastien Loeb: “The biggest challenge for me is to be competitive. There are many good drivers in the championship and for the time being I don’t have a clue of my potential. For sure the races I did in the FIA GT and Porsche Supercup have helped me to prepare for the fight on the track. But I still have to learn.”
Yvan Muller: “The new cars are funnier to drive. However I think that drivers will need to be more careful in making contacts, because with the wider tracks it’s easier to damage the suspension. And the larger front splitter means that bumping into another car may affect the aerodynamics. But all considered I am sure that the races will be close and spectacular.”
Sébastien Loeb: “I would be very disappointed if I’m not competitive. That is definitely my goal! I have good expectations for the street circuits, because I have been able to adapt myself quickly when I raced at Pau and Macau. I am sure that having a team-mate like Yvan is an advantage for me.”
LADA SPORT DRIVERS VISIT TOGLIATTI
Yesterday LADA Sport Lukoil drivers James Thompson and Mikhail Kozlovskiy visited Togliatti, LADA’s hometown.
Together with Team Principal Victor Shapovalov, Thompson and Kozlovskiy met AVTOVAZ Group Acting President Oleg Lobanov, Vice-President Sales and Marketing Artyom Fedosov and LADA Chief Designer Steve Mattin.
The party visited LADA R&D centre and LADA Sport production facilities, where they had a first look at the building the new LADA Granta Sport racing cars for the 2014 WTCC. Later they took part in a press conference with local media that was also attended by LADA Head of Marketing Alexander Bredikhin.
Thompson commented: “This was my first visit to LADA R&D and I was very much impressed by the technical facilities. It is great that we are able to use them for testing and improving the racing cars. It is fantastic for the team to have support from the manufacturer. It helps a lot, because we face fierce competition next year in the Manufacturers’ Championship. And our guys are working really hard to build a very competitive new car!”
And Kozlovskiy echoed: “The scale of LADA R&D department makes us confident that our cars will be competitive, because so much engineering power and talent is involved in this process! When the racing pedigree is supported by a great technical potential, this directly enhances the level of the racing team. I am proud that we have such a great engineering and design facility here in Russia. We saw the process of building the new WTCC car and I can’t wait to drive it!”
The team’s third driver, Rob Huff was not able to join his team-mates for the visit.
DID YOU KNOW THIS?
The city of Togliatti (Tolyatti in Russian), where LADA factory is based, lies along the Volga river in the federal province of Samara Oblast, in South-West Russia.
Its foundation dates back to 1737, as a fortress called Stavropol. The old city was covered by water after the building of the Kubyshev dam in 1950s and a new city was built in 1964.
This was named in memory of Palmiro Togliatti, Secretary of the Italian Communist Party, who had been instrumental in establishing the LADA automobile manufacturing plant in collaboration with FIAT.
MIKHAIL KOZLOVSKIY TRAINS RUSSIAN KIDS
LADA Sport Lukoil driver Mikhail Kozlovskiy shares his driving experience with young wannabe racing champions.
Kozlovskiy and his friend – and former team-mate – Eugeny Krasnov have organized a karting school for kids in Saint Petersburg, their home town, where the only Russian driver in WTCC gives a racing course every weekend. Karting is very popular in Russia, and many Russian racing drivers began their racing career in this discipline.
Mikhail Kozlovskiy has a great deal of experience in karting in which he competed since he was a ten-year old boy; he spent six years at the wheel of karts before switching to formula racing and then to touring cars.
“I am very pleased to share my racing knowledge and experience with young children. We need to grow the racing drivers of the future and develop their skills from early childhood if they want to be successful in racing. Russian motorsport has made a big step forward in the last few years. A lot of circuits have been built and more and more Russian drivers are taking part in international series. It is a fast developing process and I am happy to be part of it, gaining experience in the World Touring Car Championship and sharing it with Russian kids,” said Kozlovskiy.
THE WTCC WELCOMES TIA MULLER!
Many congratulations to Yvan Muller and Justine Monnier for the birth of Tia!
The little girl was born on Wednesday and she promises to be as beautiful as her mother and even faster than his dad; in fact she was delivered a few days in advance.
The whole WTCC family wishes all the best to Tia, her parents and her sister Nina.