The Race of Belgium, the second leg of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship season happens this Easter weekend at the Zolder circuit.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the new arrivals starting their championship season this weekend…
The event marks the opening round of the European leg of the championship season that will run for the next five months, where the circus will also visit Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, the UK, Spain, Portugal and Hungary (now confirmed as replacing the cancelled Morocco round) before heading to the final three rounds in the Far East.
This will be the second time that the series has visited the picturesque 4-kilometre Zolder circuit – which was a former host of the Belgian Formula 1 Grand Prix – and the third Belgian round overall after the championship races at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 2005.
After a five-week break since the season-opening Race of Brazil, the teams will be raring to go racing again, with the factory RML Chevrolet squad keen to defend its early Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championship lead after a double race win at Curitiba in March.
Championship leader Robert Huff will be the man to watch and will be brimful of confidence after winning one of the races at Brazil. The Briton will also be hoping to atone for the disappointment of the 2010 event here, where he was deprived of a Race 2 victory thanks to some masterly defence from BMW’s Andy Priaulx.
But he’ll also need to look within his own garage for close competition, with his team-mates Yvan Muller and Alain Menu – winner of Race 2 in Curitiba – also keen to make sure he doesn’t skip away with too much of a points lead early on.
Last year’s Race 1 winner, SEAT’s Gabriele Tarquini, could also be a strong contender here this weekend, although the turbodiesel SEATs were found wanting for straight-line speed on Curitiba’s long straights. The shorter straights and slower corners could suit the car’s handling characteristics a little better than Curitiba’s higher-speed nature.
Another driver who should perform well here is Tom Coronel, who enjoyed an impressive round in Brazil on his BMW debut in the World Touring Car Championship. The Dutchman nearly took the honours in Race 2 at Brazil, and he will enjoy strong crowd support from his many Dutch fans who will make the trip over the border to see him strut his stuff.
A 21-car entry field will be on hand for this weekend’s two 13-lap races. Chevrolet has trimmed its four-car line-up from Brazil back to its usual three, with guest driver ‘Cacá’ Bueno returning to his Brazilian stock car duties. At the same event last year, the team ran Belgian touring car driver Vincent Radermecker, although he made little impression that weekend.
The two new arrivals to the 2011 grid are both fronting up in brand-new BMW 320TC models. Hungarian driver Norbert Michelisz will make his first competitive outing since winning the final round of 2010 at Macau, making his first appearance behind the wheel of a BMW.
The Wiechers-Sport team makes its first appearance of the season with little-known Swiss driver Urs Sonderegger assuming driving the duties. Given his record in the feeder touring car series, little is expected of him at this stage.
The Bamboo Engineering outfit will also get its first outing in its new turbocharged Chevrolet Cruze, and drivers Darryl O’Young and Yukinori Taniguchi can look forward to some serious progression up the grid in the same machinery being used by the factory RML outfit.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Richard’s F1 website this weekend for the latest news and results in this championship series!
2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Belgium):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Aleksei Dudukalo|
|5.||Zengõ-Dension Team||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz|
|7.||SEAT Swiss Racing||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Fredy Barth|
|8.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alain Menu|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Darryl O’Young|
|10.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yukinori Taniguchi|
|11.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Kristian Poulsen|
|12.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Michel Nykjær|
|18.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Tiago Monteiro|
|20.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320 TC||Javier Villa García|
|21.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320si||Fabio Fabiani|
|25.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani|
|30.||Polestar Volvo||Volvo C30||Robert Dahlgren|
|35.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Urs Sonderegger|
|65.||Deteam KK Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Marchy Lee Ying Kin|
|74.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Pepe Oriola|
* Subject to final FIA confirmation
[Original images via FIA WTCC official site]