Photo: Citroën Racing

José María López and Sébastien Loeb separated by one point

Citroën Total WTCC’s drivers José María López and Sébastien Loeb leave Marrakech at the head of the points table, with López just one point ahead of Loeb after a taking a victory each on the French manufacturer’s WTCC debut.

The Citroëns, as were a number of cars on the grid, were suffering with brake problems in the 30 degree plus heat at the Moroccan circuit, and were forced to cool their brakes in the races, fanning out across the track and backing off the pace, aborting the fight for victory between each other, but the drivers say this won’t be the case the next time at more typical circuits than the Moulay El Hassan street track.

Nine-time World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb broke the circuit’s lap record in qualifying, and took victory in only his second WTCC race, a feat last achieved my his new team-mate last August at Termas de Río Hondo, and was impressed with the pace the new team had over their rivals this weekend.

“We were dominating and our fight was more with our team-mates than with other cars, but then we aborted a bit the fight because the brakes were overheating a bit, but that’s a special problem for Marrakech, which should be better next time,” said Loeb to TouringCarTimes.

“I felt the pedal getting long and I didn’t want to lose everything now because we’d destroy the brakes. I’m confident for the rest it’ll be OK, we never had brake problems like we had today in the tests.”

In race two, Loeb emerged from the first lap melee in third, and was able to pick of the two Hondas of Tiago Monteiro and Mehdi Bennani in short order to claim victory on his WTCC debut, and was just able to avoid the collision ahead of him between Citroën team-mate Yvan Muller and Tom Coronel’s Chevrolet.

“It’s a question of feeling when you are in that situation, and of luck also not to have a car come into you. Yvan was a bit unlucky with that. I went through and then I was third on the restart and I had the opportunity to take the lead and I took it.”

López leaves Marrakech with the lead of the Championship on 48 points after pole position, a victory and a second place, with team-mate Sébastien Loeb just one point behind in what’s a perfect start for the Argentine’s season.

“The most important thing was the start, I know it’s a very difficult circuit to get past, and I knew that if I was in front I’d have the best performance with the brakes, with the better air, and I did my best start so far. After that it was a tough race, I tried to pull away, but then had some problems with the brakes.

“The second race was a bit more difficult, I was a bit more lucky as I didn’t do such a good start, and as there was a big crash I had a clear view of that so I could avoid it. The Honda (of Tiago Monteiro) had broken his floor, so he was really slow in a straight line, so it was much easier to get through, and P2 is a great result for the second race. I never imagined this, so thank you to the team, my family and everyone who made it possible for me to be here.”