WTCC Race of Qatar - 30-01/12/2017
TRACK GUIDE IN 100 WORDS
Opened in 2004, the Losail International Circuit can operate 24 hours a day thanks to a state-of-the-art floodlighting system, which meant the WTCC’s first visit to the Middle East in 2015 took place under the cover of darkness for a memorable season finale, which also marked Qatar’s maiden WTCC appearance with a Friday night spectacular. Losail has staged MotoGP races from the outset with Sete Gibernau winning the inaugural race for Honda in 2004. The track, a 30-minute drive from the capital Doha, also hosted the 2006 Grand Prix Masters of Qatar, won by former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?
Mehdi Bennani beat Thed Björk to his first Main Race victory on a highly emotional night at WTCC DHL Race of Qatar. Yvan Muller signed off from his record-breaking WTCC career with two top-six finishes to secure the runner-up spot behind champion José María López and ahead of Tiago Monteiro in the final points. Elsewhere, Gabriele Tarquini won the Opening Race for LADA, while Bennani’s triumph for Sébastien Loeb Racing gave Citroën WTCC win number 50. Tarquini’s victory was a convincing one. The Italian used his experience to pass Tom Chilton at the first corner on a restart and then pulled away to win by five seconds. The race had to be red-flagged following a first-lap off for Monteiro, whose Honda sustained broken rear suspension when Hugo Valente was unable to avoid clipping the wayward Civic. At the restart, polesitter Chilton defended from Tarquini but ran deep, enabling the LADA driver to get ahead. Taking the WTCC Trophy win, Chilton spent the rest of the race defending from Rob Huff (Honda), who went from fifth to third at the start. Tarquini also scooped the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy. Bennani soaked up big pressure from Björk to win the Main Race. Starting from his maiden outright DHL pole, Bennani kept the lead ahead of López, who passed Björk. Behind there was some fraught racing, with separate incidents between Chilton and Robert Dahlgren and the LADAs of Nicky Catsburg and Valente triggering a safety car. After the restart, Björk pulled off an impressive passing move on López and caught Bennani. But the Moroccan kept the Swede at bay with an error-free run to the flag, as López signed off from his multiple title-winning WTCC stint with third. Norbert Michelisz passed Yvan Muller for fourth and was on course to beat Honda team-mate Monteiro to third in the championship until Monteiro also found a way by Muller.
Opening Race DHL Pole Position: Tom Chilton (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
Main Race DHL Pole Position: Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée WTCC)
TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy: Gabriele Tarquini (LADA Vesta) 2m01.760s
WTCC MAC3 winner: Team Citroën
Name: Losail International Circuit
Location: Al Wusail, North Relief Road
Website: www.circuitlosail.com, www.qmmf.com
Length: 5.380 kilometres
Opening Race distance: 10 laps (53.800km)
Main Race distance: 12 laps (64.560km)
Lap record (qualifying): Mehdi Bennani (Citroën C-Elysée), 2m00.456s (160.7kph), 25/11/16
Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 2m01.628s (159.2kph), 27/11/15
WTCC appearances: 2
Time zone: GMT +3 hours
2016: Opening Race: Gabriele Tarquini (LADA); Main Race: Mehdi Bennani (Citroën)
2015: Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Yvan Muller (Citroën C-Elysée)
2015-Present: Losail International Circuit