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After a long hiatus, the FIA World Touring Car Championship 2016 draws to a close in #qatar with two night races at the Losail circuit. Though the titles are all sewn up already, with Citroën and José María López* claiming the honours, there is sure to be plenty of emotion as the Citroën Total team completes its final race in the competition. #yvanmuller, who is in contention for the championship runner-up spot, is also calling time on a fabulous career in top-class #racing. The four-time World Champion is also the WTCC's most capped driver – a record that looks set to last for many years to come!
Citroën Racing's foray into global track #racing, which began in 2014, will end on Friday 25 November 2016 after sixty-nine races for the official C-Elysée WTCCs. In three years, the car, the most sophisticated ever built for the discipline, has dominated its competitors, winning 88% of available pole positions (30 out of 34) and 73% of its races (49 out of 67).
After five Cross-Country Rally World Cups and eight World Rally Championships, Citroën has added three more titles in the #wtcc, bringing its total world trophy haul to sixteen!
The Citroën Total team will feel that their mission is already accomplished, but will nonetheless be seeking to round off their #wtcc adventure in style. Two months after the Shanghai meeting, everybody involved will be eager to get back to work at Losail International Circuit.
In the FIA WTCC's second visit to #qatar, the drivers will once again experience the rare sensation of driving at night, albeit with the 5.38km track bathed in the glow of powerful spotlights. Designed for MotoGP, this circuit is perfectly suited to touring car #racing, too, with plenty of overtaking opportunities.
As he says goodbye to a discipline that has brought him international recognition at last, Pechito López makes no secret of his ambition to make it onto the top step of the podium one last time. That would be a great reward for the team, but also for his Argentine fans, who have closely followed the fortunes of their country's first world motorsport champion since Juan Manuel Fangio!
Emotion will be running at least as high on the other side of the garage. Yvan Muller's retirement marks the end of an era in the FIA #wtcc. Once again, the stats are astounding: in eleven seasons and 248 starts, the man from Alsace has set the records for number of pole positions (29), number of race wins (48), number of laps in the lead (571), number of fastest laps (38), points scored (2901) and, of course, world titles, with four championship crowns.
Yvan is a legendary driver who has decided to call it a day while he is still at the top. His aim for this weekend will be to hold on to second spot in the World Championship and thus secure a one-two for Citroën. With Yvan the Terrible currently lying 31 points ahead of Tiago Monteiro, that target should be well within his reach!
Citroën's cars will once again be carrying the maximum ballast of 80kg at the last meeting of the season. It is worth noting that, since they debuted in the discipline in 2014, the C-Elysées have systematically been burdened with the maximum handicap. Over three years, those compensation weights add up to 2340kg, almost twice as much as the second most penalized team! That figure shows just how brilliantly the team and its drivers have performed.
A reminder for FIA #wtcc lovers that this meeting will take place on Thursday and Friday. The first day will be devoted entirely to free practice. On Friday, the drivers will go straight into qualifying. In MAC3, Citroën #racing will thank the SLR drivers who have helped them secure the Manufacturers' title by including them all in their time trial lineup. That means Mehdi Bennani, Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier will be the men on track, cheered on from the sidelines by #josemarialopez and Yvan Muller! The races will take place in quick succession later in the evening, at 9.20 and 10.35 p.m. local time.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
José María López: "I'm expecting a really special weekend. When I was on the Citroën #racing simulator preparing for this race, I realized that I was doing certain things for the very last time. And that will be the case a lot in #qatar, where I will be doing the track walk, taking part in the briefings, pulling on my #racing attire, checking the radio, lining up on the grid and, I hope, stepping onto the podium for the last time! Each and every moment will be really emotional and I will try to enjoy it with the whole team. No one can take away from us what we have achieved over the past three years, but I'm dreaming of ending on a high note. I would like to thank Citroën, who gave me the opportunity to come back to Europe and relaunch my career. Everything that is happening to me today and everything that will happen to me in the future is down to our time in the FIA WTCC! I am happy to be ending the season at Losail, a circuit where I felt completely at ease from the first lap of free practice in 2015. But the fact that we performed well here last year doesn't guarantee anything; our rivals have come on a lot in the space of a year! Driving at night is pretty nice, although with all the lighting we don't really feel like we're driving in the dark."
Yvan Muller: "After such a long break, I feel like this is like part three of the season! Everyone is telling me it will be a special race and I'm beginning to realize that it will be a really emotional moment. When I see how many of my friends are making the trip, I think there will be a lot of positive energy around the Citroën camp! Like last year, I will be competing for second place in the Championship. I'm in a good position, but there have been so many twists and turns this season that I don't want to take anything for granted. A Championship one-two would be a great reward for the team. This is not only the end of my career, but the end of a great adventure with Citroën, too. I was there from the start, which is something that hasn't often been the case in my career, and I'm proud of what we have achieved. I haven't won any titles myself, but collectively we have had a lot of success. I am touched by the gratitude the Citroën #racing team have expressed to me. On Saturday morning, I'll be starting a new life. I have been lucky enough to choose when I stopped and I'm going to enjoy my first winter off in decades!"
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