WTCC Trophy fight to come for Loeb Racing

Bennani and Chilton to take the title

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By Emmanuel Touzot

20 September 2016 - 16:05
WTCC Trophy fight to come for Loeb (...)

The Sébastien Loeb Racing will launch its final sprint this weekend (September 24th-25th) in China as part of the FIA World Touring Car Championship’s tenth round. Having secured the WTCC Trophy Teams title earlier this summer, Sébastien Loeb & Dominique Heintz’s squad will look to consolidate its lead in the Drivers’ championship - currently one and two with Medhi Bennani’s and Tom Chilton’s Citroën C Elysée. The two drivers are engaged in an exciting duel, amongst the highly competitive pack of privateers, while also consistently appearing as serious contenders for overall wins and podiums. At the Shanghai International Circuit, Grégoire Demoustier will be hungry for revenge as so far he has not managed to turn his good qualifying performances into great points in race.

This round in Shanghai is very special for Medhi Bennani, WTCC Trophy leader since the very first race in France, with 17 podiums in class (8 wins) in 18 races. Indeed, that track is where he clinched his very first WTCC success back in 2014. "Unforgettable! For many different reasons, that weekend was historic, but what I remember most, on a personal level, is that first win" the Moroccan driver says. Currently 18 points ahead, he won twice in privateers’ class in Shanghai last year. "It’s a real pleasure to come back to this track, I just love it, I know it well. I’ve won there before in Formula BMW. It’s quite a wide track, combining several straights with heavy braking zones which offer lots of opportunities to overtake. Generally speaking I think it does suit the C-Elysée quite well. As always we will aim to reach the highest places in the hierarchy and to do our best. Managing our leadership in the WTCC Trophy is not enough, we also want to perform. Hopefully it’ll be a positive weekend, there’s no reason why it should be otherwise!".

Tom Chilton stands a strong chance to claim the trophy in the end of the season. The British contender, who has won before, in the most populous city of China, has been on a positive slope since mid-season, gradually getting more and more familiar with the Citroën and comprehending its subtleties. With 5 successes and 12 podiums in the WTCC Trophy, Chilton clearly showed an upswing in Argentina, clinching the overall win in the opening race.

As for Grégoire Demoustier, there is also a real potential for him to enter the privateers’ top-3. In the last two rounds he missed the qualifying Top-10 by a whisker. "First of all, getting familiar with the Citroën C-Elysée is a particularly difficult process which requires time" says Jean-Philippe Nicolao, WTCC programme’s engineer at the Sébastien Loeb Racing. "Unlike Mehdi or Tom, Grégoire competes in Tourism for the second season only, and though he’s needed some time earlier in the season, he truly reached a turning point in Argentina, thanks to hard work and several practice sessions over the summer. His next objective is to make it in Q2 using only two of the three sets of tyres in Q1, then I’m sure he could enter the qualifying Top-10. The time sheet shows he’s fast enough to do it. He’s made lots of progress and we’re convinced he can do it in the last two rounds of the season."

As Mehdi Bennani noted, the several Citroën C-Elysée shone in 2015, occupying five of the six possible places on the podiums - one of which clinched by the boss himself. Considering the drivers’ past achievements on that circuit as well as their attachment to Shanghai, all lights are green to aim for new victories!

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