The fourth WTCC round in five weeks should provide more opportunities for the Citroen team which has, so far dominated proceedings in 2014.
Despite its relative lack of experience in the series, the former rally champion marque has claimed five wins from six races – with only Gianni Morbidelli's Chevrolet denying it a clean sweep – and currently occupies the top three positions in the drivers' championship, with 'third man' Jose-Maria Lopez setting the pace heading to the Slovakia Ring this weekend.
The venue will be new to the Argentine, while team-mates Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb have both raced at a circuit which will provide a stark contrast to the Hungaroring, which hosted round three last weekend. Just three hours separate the two venues, but the 5.922km layout offers a variety of challenges, with long straight sections, fast corners and technically-demanding twists and turns.
“The circuit is very different from the Hungaroring,” Loeb, who won a 2013 GT race in Slovakia, confirmed, “With fast bends leading into long straight sections, aerodynamics will have a big role to play – and we'll have real opportunities to overtake by slipstreaming.
“There are also some very technically-demanding sections, requiring plenty of braking, which are tricky to negotiate and tough on the tyres. We'll have all that to think about and deal with.”
The multiple WRC champion admits that he will be looking for at least a podium to make up some of the ground he lost in Hungary, where Muller replaced him behind Lopez in the standings. By scoring more points than any other driver at both Paul Ricard and the Hungaroring, Muller has almost cancelled out his zero-point weekend in Marrakech – where both Lopez and Loeb won – and is now just ten points off 'Pechito' in the table. All three, however, could face stiffer opposition in round four.
“There will certainly be more overtaking opportunities than at the Hungaroring,” Citroen team principal Yves Matton reasoned, “and we think the races at the Slovakia Ring will be very competitive for several reasons.
“Having begun the development of their 2014 models later than we did, our rivals are now improving fast. Meeting after meeting, we are seeing the gaps between the teams narrowing, as one would expect. This process has been amplified by the introduction of the compensation weight system, which has allowed the other teams to shed 60kg of ballast from their cars. Finally, this is our first time on this circuit, whereas our competitors know it well. We will have to put in a flawless performance to extend our successful run.”