Bennani chasing a works WTCC drive for 2017
Mehdi Bennani says he is after a works drive in the 2017 WTCC season, and hasn't ruled out a drive outside the championship if he fails to secure one.
Since his WTCC debut in 2009, Bennani has raced for only independent teams, and last year switched to Sebastien Loeb Racing driving the Citroen C-Elysee WTCC car.
Having raced in the Independents' category for the past seven years, the 32-year-old is now aiming for a works drive in the 2017 season.
“I don’t want to stay in the WTCC Trophy for life," he said. "For sure my aim is to start seeing a new step in my career as soon as possible, I want to be a factory driver, like Hugo Valente and Norbert Michelisz.
"Hopefully, my time will come soon, otherwise, I will have to choose a different path. I will probably keep the same strategy of pushing hard for overall results because that will help my aim and also the market.
"I am the only African driver to be in the WTCC, so hopefully the future will come soon because I don’t have too much time ahead," he added.
"I’ve already seen what my opportunities are in other categories to make that jump to a works driver, but my goal is to stay in the WTCC as an official driver.”
The Morocco-based driver welcomed the highly experienced duo of Tom Chilton and Gregoire Demoustier in the SLR team.
“It’s good to have two teammates, we do a lot of debriefs together and share data, so that is positive”, said Bennani.
“For sure our category is the WTCC Trophy [independents'], but our aim is to fight for podiums like last year and fight at the front. I think the independents fight even more than the works
"I think the independents fight even more than the works drivers because our battle does not stop at the chequered flag," he added.
"It carries on trying to find the budget, the right conditions to drive and so on. We are surely not here to make up the numbers, we want to go for our best.”
Driver rotation for MAC3 at Citroen
With the introduction of Manufacturers Against the Clock [MAC3] system in qualifying from this year, Citroen has said they will likely rotate drivers from the SLR line-up.
As the French manufacturer is trimmed down to two factory drivers, and MAC3 requires three to take part, Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller are likely to be partnered with Bennani, Chilton and Demoustier on a rotational basis.
“We’ve not finalised the strategy we’ll have, but it will not always be the same three drivers, that’s for sure,” said team principal Yves Matton.
“Normally it’ll always be Yvan and Pechito [Lopez] and one of the privateers, we’ll have to see event by event what will be the strategy for the third driver, but we have to finalise it and then after that speak with the drivers and manage that together.”
On what he sees what the key factors are in selecting which driver takes part from SLR, Matton explained: “It’s two very important things.
"First, the driver has to not disturb the others during this MAC3 and that they can easily drive together and really close.
"And after that, we also have to decide in which order they are, which is the first, middle and last. We have to choose which strategy for the first event and see how it works.”
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