Sébastien Loeb Racing’s Mehdi Bennani shows brilliant pace in Marrakech !
Sébastien Loeb Racing’s driver leads the 2015 WTCC Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy
After a performance that did not go unnoticed during the first round in Argentina, Mehdi Bennani really wanted his second race of the season, on the Marrakesh Street Circuit, to be a success. With a brilliant second place in the qualifying and a fourth place in race one, the Sébastien Loeb Racing’s driver leads the 2015 World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy, following on a strong weekend (18/19 April) at his home event, the Race of Morocco.
It was a nail-biting qualifying for the 31-year old from Fes (Morocco), as he sat on provisional pole with his #25 Citroen C-Elysée until the current WTCC champion Pechito Lopez pipped him to the post on his last flying lap. Arrived fourth in the Q2, Mehdi also shined during the practice sessions, having posted the third fastest lap during Friday’s test and in the Saturday morning’s first free practice session.
“It was a dream qualifying session,” commented Bennani, who celebrated his career best qualifying position. “To start my home race from the front row was incredible. The team has done such a great job to give me a car that can compete with the factory Citroens.”
Mehdi Bennani lined up on the front row with the factory Citroen Racing C-Elysée of Pechito Lopez by his side. In only his third race start in the C-Elysée, he was passed by Ma Qing Hua and then Sébastien Loeb, leaving him in fourth place going into turn two. Not one to be defeated, Mehdi stayed close to Sébastien Loeb, applying pressure and looking for his chance to pass but, despite setting the second fastest lap of the race, it was not enough and he crossed the line in fourth place and as the first independent driver.
“I was very, very happy with that result. I did not get a perfect start but I have only had two starts in the Citroen so it wasn’t too bad to just lose two positions.
“The race was good, we had the second quickest lap time and I had a good battle with Sébastien Loeb for third place. I really wanted to overtake but I wanted more to keep it clean. It would be silly to crash with another Citroen. Congratulations to Seb, it was a fantastic race.”
This time starting from ninth, due to the top ten qualifying reverse grid, Mehdi pushed the C-Elysee to its limits to run up in sixth place. However, after several race incidents, he became caught up in a four-way battle on the final lap. It caused damage and left him to cross the line in his starting position of ninth. Once the race had come to an end, the committee members gave Mehdi a 30-second penalty for a contact with Hugo Valente.
"At the end of the weekend, we are happy with the strong performance and the speed we showed” explains Leo Thomas, Technical Director. “It was only our second weekend in the series so it is promising for our future as we begin to learn and understand the car. On top of that, we were also impressed by Mehdi because he managed to be as fast as the factory drivers after only a few kilometres. It was a shame to miss out on the podium but let's see what we can do in the next race!"
At the end of the first race, Citroën completed a historical 1-2-3-4-5 win with five C-Elysée finishing at the first five places ! Entered by Citroën Racing and with the operational support of the Sébastien Loeb Racing, Ma Qing Hua’s #33 was the second one to cross the finish line.
The next round of the 2015 WTCC calendar will take place at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary on 1-3 May.
Sébastien Loeb Racing
Raft of penalties announced in second Marrakech race
Scorching heat forces retirement in Moroccan round of WTCC