I’m very happy with how the weekend went”, Tom Chilton (No. 3 Citroën C-Elysée) explains. "I think I’ve had a lot of bad luck in qualifying because if I’d not been disturbed in my best lap, I could have claimed pole position in the WTCC Trophy, which means that I would have probably also ended on the overall podium with Mehdi. It’s a shame for the team and myself, and P11 is the worst place to be on the starting grid. But I was very happy at the end of the opening race because I was just behind Muller and Lopez’s factory Citroën. After the main race I was again in the Top-10 and earned some good points in the overall championship. I’m also happy because I’m getting more familiar with the car and looking ahead to next week in Hungary, a track I love, where I’ve got some good experience and we should be lighter, there is real hope for a top result.”
On a track that was not favorable to the Citroën C-Elysée – which still had an 80-kg ballast – the three drivers of the Sébastien Loeb Racing team made the most of the practice sessions to improve their settings before going onto the qualifying. Tom Chilton got disturbed during his best lap and ranked 11th, within a hair’s breadth of the Top 10. He started one row in front of Grégoire Demoustier. Mehdi Bennani’s qualifying went well. Before taking part in Citroën’s success in the MAC3, he posted a convincing 9th time and was the fastest in the WTCC Trophy. That granted him a first row in the opening race thanks to the Top 10 reverse grid.
Race 1. Ideally placed on the grid, Bennani leaped forward as the lights went out, followed closely by the two factory Honda. Chilton and Demoustier got off to a perfect start too, respectively 10th and 11th, fighting against Lopez’s and Muller’s Citroën.
While Benanni managed his leadership, Chilton quickly found a gap to overtake Valente’s No. 7 Lada and get in 9th place. However Demoustier was less successful as he was attacked by Ekblom’s No. 61 Volvo and had to go down one place.
In the lead, Mehdi Bennani resisted the pressure from the two Honda, but with a car whose tryes were suffering under the ballast, he could not prevent Monteiro’s No. 18 from catching up and overtaking in the third to last lap. Nevertheless he still clinched a third win back-to-back in the WTCC Trophy and climbed on the second step of the podium overall. Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier, ranked 9th and 13th, secured a one-two-three for the Sébastien Loeb Racing in the WTCC Trophy!
Race 2. Bennani and Chilton got off to a good start and avoided the pitfalls to be in 9th and 10th positions by the end of the first lap, fighting against all factory cars. As for Demoustier he struggled and lost two places which he focused on regaining throughout the 12 laps of the main race.
Bennani and Chilton drove together and went on taking the 7th and 8th places, following on the withdrawals of Valente’s No. 7 Lada and Huff’s No. 12 Honda. They managed to catch up with the leading pack in the very last laps while Demoustier’s times kept on improving lap after lap. 13th under the chequered flag, he garnered some good points in the WTCC Trophy.
With a new win, 5 seconds away only from the winner overall, this result shows once again that the top of the leaderboard is Bennani’s and the Sébastien Loeb Racing’s exclusive preserve. Four rounds in, the Moroccan driver remains undefeated this season, while Chilton claimed the double in the competition which also counts for the provisional rankings in the independent drivers and teams’ trophy.
The Sébastien Loeb Racing team will continue its tour of Eastern Europe, competing next weekend (April 22nd – 24th) with the third meeting of the season, in Hungary.
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