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As the WTCC returns from its mammoth 61 day summer break this weekend the attention will on Citroen and in particular Lopez, and whether they can raise their unreachable bar any higher. Sitting pretty at the top of the table, 55 points ahead of Muller and 92 ahead of Loeb, championship leader Lopez arrives at the Twin Ring Motegi with one finger already on the 2015 Trophy.
In a warning shot to their distant rivals, instead of resting on their laurels, all four factory Citroen drivers took part in a test at Motorland Aragon during the mid season break where 3rd placed man Loeb said “My goal is to be in with a shot and to fight for pole positions and race wins. My work isn’t done, I have to keep working hard to get up to the standard of my team-mates. That means avoiding the little mistakes and producing flawless laps. Pechito and Yvan are really good at that, but I feel like I’m improving all the time.”
With 14 victories from 16 races so far this season, a Citroen victory on Sunday looks all but certain barring accidents or mechanical failures for all four factory cars. Honda probably remain Citroen’s closest challengers at the Japanese manufacturers home event but without having the most competitive package on the grid, podiums are realistically the best both Monteiro (on his 200th WTCC start) and Tarquini can hope for.
Elsewhere down the grid, another change of personnel at Lada sees Japanese Motorsport veteran Lapierre replace van Lagen whilst Chilton will look to retain his position as the highest Chevrolet and first non Citroen or Honda driver.
Whilst we think most WTCC fans can have a very accurate guess at which drivers will be standing on the podium this weekend, in the interests of competition, here are two questions we’d like to see the Twin Ring Motegi provide answers for this weekend.
Can anyone else but Citroen win a race?
We could be really optimistic here and talk up the chances of Honda winning at their home event, but the truthful answer is, probably not.
Can Loeb and Hua take the fight to Lopez and Muller?
At some stages this season the Championship has looked like a four tier series, with Lopez and Muller at the top, Loeb a level below, Ma Qing Hua below Loeb, and everyone else below that. With Hua taking his first 2015 victory last time out in Portugal we hope at least that Lopez and Muller may have some competition to lock out the top steps on the podium.
thehairpincorner prediction: Citroen to dominate once again, with Lopez and Muller’s experience coming through. Improved performances from Loeb and Hua but not enough to challenge for victories. Honda might sneak on the podium in race two if they’re lucky.
Let us know your thoughts on how you think the races at Twin Ring Motegi will pan out!