Citroën Racing drivers José María López and Yvan Muller expressed their concerns over the new layout of the Moulay El Hassan Circuit in Marrakech. The fast street track used up to 2015 by the FIA World Touring Car Championship has been turned into a permanent but shorter circuit, measuring just under 3 kilometres and is twistier.
With the old street circuit having been described as ‘Monza with no run-offs’ by triple world champion Andy Priaulx on the occasion of the first WTCC visit in Morocco, the Moulay El Hassan Circuit was iconic and rated by the drivers as exciting, despite several accidents and safety car periods during the races over the years.
José María López loved that layout: “I really liked the old circuit, which was like nothing else on the planet,” explained the two-time world champion. “After my preparations on the Citroën Racing simulator, I get the impression the new track will be very slow. We won’t go quicker than 200 kph and I can’t really see any good overtaking spots. The track seems narrow, without any big turns where you might slip past a rival.”
With such a short track, qualifying will be crucial as the gaps will inevitably come down: “It’s going to be a real challenge, particularly in qualifying, with the course being so short. The times are going to be very close and the slightest error will be more costly here than elsewhere. In any case, I’m happy to be back in Morocco after such a cold start to the season! The atmosphere is always terrific in Marrakech.”
Team-mate Yvan Muller echoed his team-mate, adding that the TC1 cars might not be able to use fifth gear, and surely not sixth: “Like José, I’m sad that the straight sections have been shortened to such an extent. We’ll never get into sixth gear, and maybe not even fifth,” said the Frenchman. “We’ll need to keep up a good pace on this track. On paper, overtaking opportunities will be limited, but I’ll reserve judgement until I get out there. I’m hoping for a good weekend – better than at the Hungaroring. Yes, I got my first podium of the year, but it’s wins I’m aiming for”
Citroën head into the weekend with a 40 point advantage over Honda Racing in the manufacturers’ standings, but will also be 40kg heavier than their main rivals.