Published on July 11th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Jose Mario Lopez – From Prince of Touring Cars to WTCC King
Currently on course for his third FIA World Touring Car Championship title, José María López will transfer his considerable talent to FIA Formula E after signing with the DS Virgin Racing team for season three of the electric racing series.
‘Pechito’ López, who was twice on the brink of a Formula One drive, was a shining light in the Argentinean Súper TC2000 series when WTCC promoter Eurosport Events and the local race promoter concluded an agreement for the Argentine to contest his home round of the World Touring Car Championship in August 2013.
He promptly won the second of two races in Termas de Río Hondo driving a privateer Wiechers-Sport BMW, which was enough to convince Citroën Racing to test and benchmark him against four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller. He passed the assessment with flying colours and joined Citroën’s factory WTCC team for its maiden campaign in 2014, when the FIA’s TC1 technical regulations were introduced.
While some drivers struggled initially to adapt to the more advanced machinery, López excelled and claimed back-to-back WTCC Drivers’ titles with Citroën, with whom the 33-year-old leads this season’s standings by 101 points heading into the summer break, underlining the WTCC’s ‘catch him if you can’ tagline. He was also instrumental in Citroën’s double WTCC Manufacturers’ championship triumph.
While his obvious natural driving talent, backed up by the might of the factory Citroën team, has been a key factor in his success, his meticulous preparation – including his fastidious use of driving simulators – attention to detail, lengthy technical briefings with this engineers and rigorous fitness regime have ensured that he’s raised the bar considerably.
López’s profile has increased throughout his time as a WTCC driver. He’s become an ambassador of the FIA’s Action for Road Safety campaign, he’s won countless motorsport awards, and has received Argentina’s top sporting accolade, won also by its footballing megastar Lionel Messi.
Eric Boullier, one of López’s former team bosses and now Racing Director of the McLaren Formula One team, said: “I had José María López in my hands between 2003 and 2005 when he was racing at DAMS in Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2. He was already very skilled and totally focused by that time. He made a good move to join WTCC and gave his international career a second chance. It’s no surprise to me he became a multiple FIA world champion, and now he has the aspiration to win in other racing categories.”
Fittingly for López, WTCC 2016 resumes in Argentina from 5-7 August. The season will then visit Japan, China, Thailand and Qatar where it concludes on 25 November.
José María López’s WTCC career in numbers
Pole positions: 18
Fastest laps: 24
Laps led: 26
Points scored: 1216
Car number: 37