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After a challenging weekend in Russia, the Citroën Total team is going into the Portuguese round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship with revenge on their minds. José María López and Yvan Muller will want to preserve the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC’s unbeaten record on the Vila Real street circuit.

With the summer break fast approaching, this weekend’s FIA WTCC race at the Vila Real circuit will mark the last European meeting of the 2016 season. The season will resume in Argentina in early August, before moving on to Asia and the Middle East.

The Portuguese round is also the first of the second half of the season. In the first six meetings, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs have notched up five pole positions, seven race wins and four one-two finishes. Their performance has given the team a healthy lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship, with Citroën’s 523-point tally putting the team 172 points clear of their nearest rivals. In the drivers’ standings, José María López is leading the pack with 223 points, 105 ahead of Mehdi Bennani and Nick Catsburg. Yvan Muller is fifth at this stage of the season with 109 points.

“We are on track. It has been a positive first half to the season for us, as we are well-placed to retain our world titles,” said Yves Matton. “The technical team has skilfully negotiated the changes to the regulations, which meant we had to carry 80kg of ballast in the first few meetings. The Citroën C-Elysée WTCC remains the best car in the competition, but we know that our opponents are catching up. We have to keep working to exploit the car’s full potential. I also hope that Yvan gets his first win soon. He has been dogged by chronic bad luck and he deserves to be back in the top three of the overall standings.”

At the Vila Real circuit, the Citroën Total drivers’ only goal will be to improve on those figures. Last year, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs proved unstoppable at this circuit, with López and Ma Qing Hua winning the two races.

“This street circuit is one of the biggest challenges of the season, perhaps the toughest after the Nürburgring,” warns Yvan Muller. “You need a lot of commitment to go fast between the safety barriers, particularly on the big descent with its really quick left-hand turn. The surface is quite bumpy and overtaking opportunities are rare. It might be better this year as the course has been changed slightly with that in mind. I remember last year being a testing weekend because it was hot. I hope it’s the same this year. I’m beginning to get sick of the rain! From a technical point of view, we’ll need to be careful with our brakes. There will be a lot of pressure on them, given the 80kg of ballast our cars will be carrying.”

“You need to stay really humble on this circuit,” added Pechito López. “It is full of difficulties: tight turns, fast, blind bends, chicanes where you need to jump over the rumblestrips. It’s not always easy to build up speed and maintain the right line. The slightest error can ruin your lap or send you crashing off. I like the challenge of Vila Real. I also like the atmosphere in the town. The Portuguese people are passionate about motorsport and they make sure we know it!”

As after every WTCC meeting, the compensation weights are reviewed in light of the results from the last three meetings. In Vila Real, the Citroëns will still be carrying the maximum ballast of 80kg, against 70kg for Lada, 60kg for Honda, 10kg for Chevrolet and nothing for Volvo.

Citroën has already chosen the drivers who will compete in MAC3 in Portugal. As in the first five meetings of the season, López and Muller will be joined by Mehdi Bennani, who is currently lying in second place in the World Championship.

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