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After a long hiatus, the 2016 FIA World Touring Car Championship draws to a close in Qatar with two night races at the Losail circuit. Although the titles are all sewn up already, by Citroën and José María López*, there will be plenty of emotion as the Citroën Total team completes its final WTCC race. Yvan Muller, who is in contention for second in the championship, is also calling time on a fabulous career in top-class racing.

Citroën Racing’s foray into global track racing, which began in 2014, will end on Friday 25 November 2016 after 69 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 16.

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 is eager to get back to work at Losail International Circuit for the final round of the season.

As part of the FIA WTCC’s second visit to Qatar, the drivers will once again experience driving at night, albeit with the 5.38km track bathed in the glow of powerful spotlights. Designed for MotoGP, this circuit is also perfectly suited to touring car racing, with plenty of overtaking opportunities.

Last year, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs appeared at ease here, with José María López claiming pole position before winning the first race. Yvan Muller then emerged victorious in race two.

As he says goodbye to a discipline that has brought him international recognition, Pechito López makes no secret of his ambition to make it onto the top step of the podium one last time. It would be a great reward for the team, but also for the Argentine fans, who have closely followed the fortunes of their country’s first world motorsport champion since Juan Manuel Fangio.

Emotions will be running just 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 statistics are astounding: in 11 seasons and 248 starts, the man from Alsace has set records for the 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.

Muller is a legendary driver who has decided to call it a day while he is still at the top. His aim in Qatar will be to hold on to second place in the Drivers’ World Championship and thus secure a one-two for Citroën. With Muller currently lying 31 points ahead of Tiago Monteiro, that target should be well within his reach.

Citroën’s cars will be carrying the maximum ballast of 80kg. It is worth noting that, since they debuted in the WTCC in 2014, the C-Elysées have systematically been burdened with the maximum handicap. Over three years, those compensation weights add up to 2,340kg, almost twice as much as the second most penalised team. That figure shows just how brilliantly the team and its drivers have performed.

This last meeting of the season 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 line-up. That means Mehdi Bennani, Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier will be the men on track, cheered on from the side lines by José María López and Yvan Muller. The races will take place in quick succession later in the evening, at 21:20hrs and 22:35hrs 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 realised that I was doing certain things for the very last time. 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 part three of the season! Everyone is telling me it will be a special race and I’m beginning to realise 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 has 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!”

* Subject to official publication of the results by the FIA.

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