Latino Traffic Report has learned that against all odds, José María “Pechito” López emerged victorious Saturday in the 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 at the start of the 2016 season.
“I’m happy to be driving a Citroën that is so quick… and so solid!” enthused López after securing a second consecutive main-race win.
In accordance with the new regulations, the top ten from qualifying lined up in reverse order on the opening-race starting grid. That meant López began from eighth place. Mehdi Bennani made a sensational start from the front row to grab the lead. In the chasing pack, López and Yvan Muller also made headway, climbing to fifth and sixth place respectively by the end of lap one.
The two Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs remained locked together until lap 7, when López seized an opportunity to regain the upper hand. With three laps to go, Tiago Monteiro took the lead, with Bennani then having to devote his energy to keeping Rob Huff at bay until the checkered flag.
“The start of the main race was important. I got away perfectly and managed to take the lead,” López said. “I pushed hard to open up a bit of an advantage over the first two laps. Then I felt some major vibrations in the rear left of my car. Something was broken. The noise disappeared, then came back again. On all the right-hand turns, I thought I was going to have to pull out!”
The final lap also saw an impressive rally from Norbert Michelisz, who passed Muller before putting pressure on López. The Argentine held his nerve till the end to secure a second consecutive main-race win.
“Nick seemed to be struggling at the end,” he explained. “I managed to get past him, but it was really tight right down to the wire. That makes this win even more enjoyable.”
Tomorrow, the Citroën Total team will set off for Budapest. The third FIA World Touring Car Championship meeting of the 2016 season will take place at the Hungaroring on April 23 and 24.