Jose Maria Lopez Wins 2015 WTCC Opener in Argentina


Jose Maria Lopez

Jose Maria Lopez claimed victory on home soil at Termas de Rio Hondo to begin his defence of the World Touring Car Championship title in style.

Starting from pole position, Lopez was attacked by his team-mate and rival Yvan Muller down the inside of turn one. As the Frenchman ran wide, Lopez was able to cut inside and move back into a lead that he kept until the end.

He opened up a three-second lead over Muller as the local hero claimed a fourth consecutive victory in the WTCC at the Argentinian circuit.

Citroen got their second season in the WTCC off to a good start with a lockout of the podium as Sebastien Loeb followed Muller home in third.

The C-Elysees had occupied the top four slots on the grid, but Ma Qing Hua got a very slow launch that dropped him towards the back.

He came back through to finish seventh behind the three Hondas of Tiago Monteiro, Gabriele Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz.

Tom Chilton was sixth early on in his Chevrolet ahead of the Citroen of Mehdi Bennani and Lada of Rob Huff, who were fighting through after disappointing qualifying performances left them starting on row six.

Huff passed the Moroccan but then took a hit on his right-rear corner from the new Citroen driver, braking the 2012 champion’s wheel and forcing him to pit.

Bennani would go on to pass Chilton but he was promptly handed a drive-through penalty for his misjudged move on Huff, causing him to finish down in 13th.

Chilton meanwhile had no response to the pace of Michelisz – who started on the back row of the grid after losing a wheel in qualifying – and Ma, leaving him eighth at the chequered flag.

The top ten was completed by two series returnees; Stefano D’Aste in his Chevrolet and Honda’s Rickard Rydell.

First lap contact between James Thompson and John Filippi forced both out, but Lada managed to repair Thompson’s car in time to get him out on the last lap, meaning he should be fine to take up his pole position for race two.

Hugo Valente‘s car had been repaired overnight by the Campos Racing team after his qualifying crash, but he then suffered another brake failure and heavy crash during the race. Now ruled out of race two, the Frenchman also hurt his hand in the impact.

Tom Coronel had to pit during the race with a reported loss of power, but the ROAL team managed to fix the issue and get him back out on track before the end.