Jose Maria Lopez says it is in an honour to become the first Argentinian since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio to win an FIA world championship title after wrapping up the World Touring Car Championship in Japan.
Though his title win was considered something of a foregone conclusion with four races of the season remaining in Suzuka and Macau, Lopez still achieved his objective in style with a ninth win of what has been a remarkable year for the South American.
Having forged a career competing in single-seaters before switching to the domestic rear-wheel drive STC2000 series, it only took a race-winning one-off WTCC outing in a BMW last season to catch the attention of incoming manufacturer Citroen.
Pairing Lopez with WRC legend Sebastien Loeb and four-time WTCC champion Yvan Muller, Lopez may have been less experienced than the latter but a victory in the opening round quickly established his credentials.
From here, Lopez has shown unwavering consistency and speed, his eight wins prior to Suzuka putting him on the cusp of a title that sees him become the first Argentinian since Fangio in 1957 to secure an FIA world title.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “As ever, the first thing that comes to mind is all the people I need to thank. Thank you to my family, to all those who helped me when things were at their hardest, and to Citroën for choosing me to drive one of their C-Elysées. Thanks, too, to all the engineers and mechanics. Not just the ones who look after my car, because we all work together.
“It’s really special to have won on one of Ayrton Senna’s favourite circuits. He won two titles here and I am proud to have done the same. It’s also an honour to emulate Juan Manuel Fangio as an Argentinian World Champion. It’s thanks to him that our country is so mad about motorsport and I am proud to represent my nation in the FIA WTCC.”