WTCC Race of Japan: Lopez: Quietly confident for WTCC title defence

Jose Maria Lopez says he is ‘quietly confident’ about the defence of his World Touring Car Championship title after further extending his lead in the drivers’ standings. The Citroen driver notched up a dominant victory in race one at the Japanese round of WTCC in Motegi but suffered his first retirement of the year in a first-lap collision in race two. Nevertheless, his nearest championship rival Yvan Muller also failed to finish in the points in race two due to a loose bonnet.
Jose Maria Lopez
Jose Maria Lopez

As a result, the Argentinian now holds a 74-pont lead on Muller, and a 98-point advantage over nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb, with only 150 points left on offer over the final three rounds.

Such dominance makes Lopez a heavy favourite to retain his WTCC crown but insists he won’t ease off until it is mathematically impossible that his title rivals can catch him.

“I can go into the next few races feeling quietly confident, but I certainly won’t be relaxing,” Lopez said. “I got off to a great start in race one and managed to overtake Michelisz before the first bend. I thought it would be harder to keep him at bay, as our 60 kg of ballast were a real handicap on this circuit. But as it turned out, I was able to pull away and get the win.

“In race two, another driver ran into me and I couldn’t avoid hitting Seb [Loeb]. I’m really sorry about that, but fortunately it didn’t totally ruin his race. Since Yvan didn’t fare any better than I did, the gap between us has widened.”

The WTCC paddock now heads to the Shanghai International Circuit for round 10, Race of China, on the 26-27 September