Mehdi Bennani shone through the night in Qatar!
"It was a perfect round, we couldn’t have done any better"
Racing for a first place in the Yokohama Trophy as part of the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), Mehdi Bennani and the Sébastien Loeb Racing wanted to have no regrets after this final round in Qatar. The Moroccan driver and the Alsace-based team tried their utmost, completing their best round of the season: second best time posted in the qualifying, first podium overall of the year and a new win in the Yokohama Trophy – for independent drivers only.
Bennani finally finished this 2015 edition as runner-up, only four points away from the leader. The first campaign of the team, cofounded by Sébastien Loeb and Dominique Heintz, proved to be a positive one with seven wins as part of the Yokohama Trophy, six Top 5 ‘scratch’ times and four Super Poles, as well as one pole position in Race 2.
“It was a perfect round, we couldn’t have done any better” Mehdi Bennani explains. “A second-place finish in the Yokohama Trophy and eighth overall are very positive results and I think that nobody expected us at that level a couple of months ago. I want to thank the team for such hard work as well as all the fans who have travelled to support me for this final round. It’s a bit frustrating to miss out on the title by four points only, but all I want to remember is the positive side of things, we should have no regrets. We’ve progressed well, we’ve competed amongst the best contenders and there’s still room for further improvement next year. I’m confident about the future. Congratulations to Norbert Michelisz who had a fantastic season. We’ve offered a great performance right to the very final metres of this last round.”
“We’ve been through a full-on weekend with Mehdi and that shows the work accomplished all along the season” Citroën C-Elysée No.25 engineer, Jean-Philippe Nicolao confides. “We performed well straight from the very first practice sessions, then Mehdi realized that potential during the qualifying. He made two good starts, delivering great races, with a podium overall and a win in the independent drivers’ rankings. It’s a very positive way to wrap up the season. We’ve just missed out on the title, we knew it was going to be a tough mission but we did everything we could. We do end up a positive note, having learnt lots this year and having proved our competitiveness facing the best contenders. It’s very interesting for 2016. We’ve got good things to achieve with Mehdi.”
Right from the first laps on Thursday, on the Losail International Circuit, Mehdi Bennani performed well. He posted the third time of the Test Session, then the second time of the first free practice session. Once again ranking within the Top 10 in the final session, the Moroccan driver faced the qualifying with confidence. He completing Q1 (2nd) then Q2 (5th) without trouble. In Q3 for the fourth time of the season, he completed an excellent lap which enabled him to reach the first row, alongside Pechito Lopez, and in front of Sébastien Loeb!
Race 1. Second on the grid, Bennani made a good start and, though Sébastien seemed to almost have overtaken him, the Moroccan driver came out of the first turn in second position and firmly hanged onto that place. While Pechito Lopez was untouchable, the Citroën C-Elysée No.25 driver managed to consistently widen the gap with contenders chasing him. He was three seconds’ ahead of them at mid-race. He maintained that pace to finally cross the finish-line of this night time round at a superb second place overall which grante him a new win in the Yokohama Trophy. He was only two points behind the leader then.
Race 2. Given the reverse grid system, Bennani started from the fifth row. He avoided all the pitfalls at the start and quickly climbed in sixth place, before the safety car was called out. Five laps later, the green flag was back and Bennani gained a place, racing between Sébastien Loeb and Hugo Valente. Laps after laps, he stuck to Sébastien’s pace, while ensuring himself a little room for manoeuvre in front of his opponents. The Moroccan driver maintained a good rhythm, he was never threatened and secured his fifth place overall, second in the independent drivers’ rankings. Second is also his finish-place in the Yokohama Trophy this season, missing out on the title by five points only
Ma Qing Hua whose car entered by Citroën Racing gets operational support from the Sébastien Loeb Racing finished the season on the second step of the podium, and the fourth place in the Drivers’ championship.
Mehdi Bennani will once again race under the colours of the Sébastien Loeb Racing in 2016 behind the wheel of a Citroën C-Elysée. One or two teammate(s) will be competing alongside him within the Alsace-based squad.
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