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WTCC 2015: Return of the World Touring Citroen Championship

Nothing really has changed.. Image Credit:

Nothing really has changed.. Image Credit:

After months of waiting the World Touring Car Championship has returned with the opening round at the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina. The 2014 season was utterly dominated by the all-conquering Citroens, echoing the same consistent superiority as the Mercedes in F1. Towards the middle part of the season I had albeit given up on the WTCC. The close season filled me with a fools hope that 2015 would take the mistakes from 2014 and transform them into a thrilling year. As I sat ready to enjoy the return of touring cars for 2015, little did I know the massive disappointments that lay ahead.


While I was growing up, my parents would often tell me that I should not knock something until I have tried it. When it comes to motorsports, this is very much a mantra that I endeavour to follow. The close season promised that intense testing and new developments would bring the WTCC field closer together; I was adamant that these changes would bring results. It was when I saw the qualifying results that my new found hope came crashing down around me. The reigning champion Lopez took pole position, by a gargantuan 1.2 seconds. I can remember a time when entire grids of touring car series were separated by a similar margin. And if only to pour salt into the wound, the next three cars on the grid were all Citroens.

The reverse grid for the second race did put British hero James Thompson on pole in the new look Lada. Post-qualifying comments from Honda gave the impression that they were happy that they have managed to close to gap to Citroen. At first this may seem positive, but in reality the fact that they still have to close such a massive gap is somewhat depressing. But with race day still to come, perhaps the other teams were waiting to strike.

There was some drama even before the start of the first race due to the blistering temperatures at the circuit. With track temperatures reaching upwards of 60 degrees, tyres were going to become a deciding factor in the outcome of the races. Not only that, the exhausting heat created highly treacherous conditions that somewhat mirrored a wet track. By going off the racing line speed and handling were very much compromised. Well, for everyone except the factory Citroen’s that is.

Race One

Bennani made a name for himself over the opening weekend. Image Credit:

Bennani made a name for himself over the opening weekend. Image Credit:

Usually when I construct these post-race reports, I like to focus on the races themselves while providing my own insight into the action. The trouble is that this is rather difficult to do this when there really isn’t much action to speak of. The first race took processional to an almost new low with the Citroen’s driving out into a lead they would never lose. The gap covering the top 3 was around 5 seconds; at the chequered flag it would take 14 seconds before the 4th place Monteiro would appear. Criticisms aside for just a minute, it must be something special to return to your home track as reigning world champion and take a commanding victory in the first race of the season; Jose Maria Lopez has often been described as the people’s driver and this was very much evident on the podium following the first race. It was as much his victory as it was the 40,000 strong fans’ victory.

The first race was a harrowing start to the season for the new Lada Vesta, with both cars involved in collisions that would end their races prematurely. In the case of Rob Huff, his spearing by Bennani gave the Citroen privateer a drive-through and an infamous reputation that may last all season. My biggest sympathy in the first race has to go to Hugo Valente, who had only just repaired his car for the start of the race following a previous incident, only to crash out once more; this very much spelt the end to a miserable start to the year for the Chevrolet driver.

Race Two

Kind of sums up a disappointing weekend for Lada.. Image taken from: Eurosport

Kind of sums up a disappointing weekend for Lada.. Image taken from: Eurosport

The second race had a superficial sense of anticipation; could Thompson take the new Lada to victory from pole? However, as the revs began to build it my usual predictions came flooding out. By the end of the 1st lap there would be a Citroen leading, even though the closest Citroen was starting 7th. Low and behold, barely half way around the first lap there were two Citroen’s leading in the form of Loeb and Ma. After making a mistake in lap 2, Ma gave the lead to Loeb who never looked back and shot off to his first victory of 2015. How very exciting.

For some time Tarquini was holding his own from the rampaging Citroens, until finally succumbing to Lopez down the back straight. There was nothing else Tarquini could have done; the sheer brutality of the Citroen straight line speed makes defence an impossible task. Some of the only talking points of the race were provided by Muller and of course Mr Bad Man himself Bennani in his privateer Citroen. Following collision between the two, Muller was forced to pit and would finish the race last.

My Verdict

Monteiro is fast becoming my favourite driver in the WTCC. Image Credit:

Monteiro is fast becoming my favourite driver in the WTCC. Image Credit:

If I was to pick not only the driver of the race but of the whole weekend, it would have to be Monteiro. Dazzling consistency was the name of the game for the Honda man, who managed to keep himself out of trouble to finish the first race in 4th and the second in 3rd. Many people would give such an award to Lopez or Loeb, but for me I look for true driving skill over superior technology. Credit should also be given to returning Rydell who managed two solid points finishes across the weekend despite suffering with numerous problems. Finally, this may be a little out of character for me but I am developing a considerable soft spot for the pantomime villain of the WTCC field; Bennani may not always driver as cleanly as I would hope from a true touring car driver, but hey at least he provides some entertainment.

The World Touring Car Championship used to be the beacon in every aspect of tin top motorsport; the days of Priaulx, the Mullers, Farfus Jnr and Giovanardi contained nail biting action, drama and edge of the seat racing. Since the introduction of the Citroen team last year (but the fault does not lie entirely with them), it has become nothing more than a dull, lacklustre and highly predictable excuse for a championship with very little to offer the viewer; except perhaps the distant hope that Citroen might go the way of Mercedes in Formula One and begin an all-out civil war, paving the way for other teams to come through.

Part of the problem stems from the obsession of the FIA to take its championships to tracks that are simply too big; one of the reasons Argentina provided no excitement was a track so wide it made the Grand Canyon green with jealousy. If the WTCC followed the idea of the BTCC and had tighter, narrower tracks it would at least slow the relentless march of the Citroens through the field. Those I feel most for are the other non-Citroen teams who can do nothing but watch the Citroens drive off into the distance. This is what happens when you give FIA control of well, anything and secondly give one team a whole years extra development over everyone else.

The only way for WTCC to fix the mess it has put itself in is to quite simply start again. New rules, new regulations which would mean everyone start again from a clean slate. As it stands, the WTCC is set to lose a great deal of support from sponsors, fans and teams alike. Our only hope now rests on Honda and Lada to provide any form of resistance against the Citroens. It is almost like playing a racing simulator with the difficulty set to novice when it comes to the Citroens. Honestly, as it stands I could find more shock and excitement from the next X Factor winners single.

Welcome back everyone, to the 2015 World Touring Citroen Championship!

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Keep Driving People!

Peace and Love!