Mehdi Bennani aims for the title
"We don’t want to have any regrets"
Last March began the first World Touring Car Championship campaign for Mehdi Bennani and the Sébastien Loeb Racing. Less than nine months after the opening round in Argentina, the Moroccan driver approaches the WTCC finale as a serious contender for the title as part of the Yokohama Trophy – for independent drivers only. And that is exactly the goal that the Alsace-based team and his driver have set themselves as they are about to head to Qatar (November 27th-28th) for a final round which promises to be exceptional with two night time races.
Seven points. Those separate Mehdi Bennani from Norbert Michelisz, current leader in the Yokohama Trophy, before the ultimate round of the season. At the wheel of the Citroën C-Elysée No. 25, the Moroccan driver will have two races to bridge that gap and win the title. During the last two rounds, in China and Thailand, he managed to garner twenty-nine points, cumulating three class wins and one second-place finish. Those are very positive signs and Bennani hopes to continue this way.
"I simply can’t wait to get going with this final meeting of the season" he confides enthusiastically. "It’s an important event in Qatar, my second home race in a way after Marrakech, and obviously, there’s a title at stake, so I’m very motivated. Our recent performances were good ones, whether as part of the Yokohama Trophy or in the overall classification where we’ve regularly ranked within the Top 5. We had a good pace, always at the front during both qualifying sessions and races... We’ve been through a down moment around mid-year, but we’re now at the heart of an upward phase and that makes us very confident."
Though the title seemed out of reach when the competition resumed in September, it is now almost within arm’s length. That is the ambition showed by the Sébastien Loeb Racing and Bennani. "We don’t have the choice, we need to go for it to clinch that title" he says. "I can feel pressure, because it’s an important challenge, but that means that we’re there and up for it. Many people say to us that climbing on the second step of the podium is a good enough achievement for a first year together. But we want more. And most of all, we don’t want to have any regrets. I haven’t done the math, only winning counts. The team is working for that. And I’m working hard towards that too."
We will find out about the result on Saturday November 28th in Qatar, following on two night races (9:30pm and 10:40pm). On that occasion, the WTCC will be hosted for the first time at the Losail International Circuit. "It’s a very technical track, including many turns" Bennani explains. "That layout reminds me of Hungaroring, but on a bigger scale. Corners quickly succeed one another and I’ll have to find the right pace. That track requires high concentration and allows very little time to rest despite the one-kilometre long straight. I’ve raced at night time before and I quite liked that. Everything is there for a great final round."
While Citroën has already secured Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles, with José Maria Lopez, Mehdi Bennani and the Sébastien Loeb Racing will try to bring a new crown to the double chevron brand with the Yokohama Trophy. Ma Qing Hua whose car, entered by Citroën Racing, will get operational support from the Alsace-based team, will aim to maintain his fourth place overall. As to Sébastien Loeb himself, he will aim for a runner-up finish.
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