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With the opening meeting of the season at the Paul Ricard Circuit complete, the FIA WTCC is moving on to Slovakia and Hungary for two rounds in two consecutive weekends. José María López and Yvan  Muller will be doing their utmost to earn further success for the Citroën Total team.

The Slovakia Ring and the Hungaroring are just 200km apart, but two completely different race tracks. As an ultra-fast circuit, the Slovakia Ring is comparable with the Nürburgring as a “temple of speed”, where drivers will be at full throttle for 67% of the lap and record average speeds of over 170kph. In contrast, the Hungaroring requires drivers to make full use of their spoilers to maximise grip on the narrow, winding track.

The Citroën C-Elysée WTCC has always fared well in Slovakia, winning the three races held there in 2014 and 2015. Last year Yvan Muller impressed, collecting pole position, victory and the fastest lap in race one, as well as a podium finish in race two. José María López has three second-place finishes to his name at the circuit, plus a pole position in 2014. Muller also has a strong record in Hungary, where he has claimed four pole positions and five race wins since 2011.

In addition to their adversaries on the track, the Citroën drivers will also have to contend with a particularly unfavourable set of racing regulations. Just as they did at the Paul Ricard Circuit, the cars will be carrying 80kg of ballast, while their rivals will have no such burden. From the Hungaroring onwards, the compensation weights will be changed meeting by meeting, using a mathematical formula that takes account of the best times of each model in the three previous rounds.

But López and Muller are not resigned to playing second fiddle. With a pole position and wins in MAC3 and the main race, the opening weekend confirmed the effectiveness of the team’s preparations for the season in winter testing. Once again, the team will be aiming for the best possible results to notch up as many points as they can in the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ World Championships.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY

Yves Matton (Team Principal, Citroën Racing): “With a strong performance at Paul Ricard under its belt, the team felt it had put in some good work, but immediately turned its attention to the upcoming meetings. A quarter of our season is condensed into the next 24 days, and we mustn’t let up. The cars have been serviced in our Versailles workshops, and the drivers have practised hard on the simulator to prepare as best they can. We are preparing for a tough weekend in Slovakia, but we don’t intend to let the opportunity for a good result slip by.”

José María López (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 37): “The start to the season was as tough as we had feared. But we managed to win and we came away from Paul Ricard with lots of positives. In Slovakia, I’m expecting our task to be harder still. It’s the longest circuit of the year, with the exception of the Nordschleife, and the tyres are going to suffer on the high-speed sections. We’re going to try to limit the effects of the ballast. It would be fantastic if we could achieve another win. What I’m most looking forward to is the Hungaroring, when the playing field will be levelled. On paper, it’s not the most exciting circuit, but there’s always a really warm atmosphere and the new surface could make driving more enjoyable.”

Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC No. 68): “Our experience at Paul Ricard taught us two things: we really improved in the off-season, and we obviously worked more effectively than the competition, because we were still the quickest. We know that the C-Elysée performs well on all circuits; nevertheless, I think it’s going to be difficult this time around. We estimated that the ballast cost us a second a lap over 3.841 km at Le Castellet. Over six kilometres, that would put pole position out of reach, but that’s only in theory. I feel like our season really begins in Hungary. We’ll have to perform strongly there to make up for the points we’ve conceded in the early part of the season.”

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