Text: Anton Andres / Photos: WTCC, Citroen | posted December 03, 2015 16:14
Lopez, Muller victorious in WTCC's first night race
The 2015 World Touring Car Championship season has finished where Citroen had started: the top spot on the podium. Citroen drivers Jose-Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller won the Race of Qatar in the Losail Circuit, the series' first night race.
Jose-Maria Lopez led the race from start to end, unchallenged as soon as the field entered the first turn. Mehdi Bennani was briefly challenged by Sebastien Loeb but the latter ran wide and lost two places on the grid as a result. Gabriele Tarquini also ran into misfortune in the first turn as well, spinning out and dropping him to last place.
The rest of the race continued without incident with Bennani eventually finishing second with Hugo Valente rounding up the podium finishers. Sebastien Loeb was unable to recover from running wide in the first lap and finished fourth. The two factory backed Citroens of Ma Qing Hua and Yvan Muller finished fifth and sixth respectively.
Norbert Michelisz finished seventh, ahead of Honda team mate Tiago Monteiro. The top finishing Lada was driven by Nicky Catsburg, finishing ninth. Completing the top ten is Stefano D'Aste.
Taking pole for race two was John Filippi with Tom Coronel taking the second spot on the grid. Unfortunately for Coronel, he ran into trouble even before the race started. Race stewards spotted patches of oil under his car and thus penalizing him and forcing him to start from the pit lane. Coronel's spot in the grid was taken over by Yvan Muller.
Filippi had a good launch from race two and did his best to defend his lead from Muller and Ma Qing Hua. An incident in the first turn saw Nicky Catsburg spinning out and suffering heavy damage to his car. The spin out also collected Stefano D'Aste and left debris all over the track, bringing out the safety car.
Racing resumed on lap six and Filippi eventually buckled under pressure from Muller's attacks. Filippi spun around and Muller wasted no time in taking the lead with Ma Qing Hua in tow. A fierce battle for third was also brewing behind the leaders between Norbert Michelisz and Sebastien Loeb. Michelisz was able to hold off the nine time rally champ to take bronze and deny Citroen a total podium lockout. Finishing fifth Mehdi Bennani along with Hugo Valente in sixth. Gabriele Tarquini crossed the line seventh while race 1 winner, Jose Maria Lopez finished eighth. Rounding up the top ten finishers are Tiago Monteiro and Nicolas Lapierre.
The 2016 season for the World Touring Car Championship will begin on March 20. At the time of writing, no venue has been selected for the opening round.