Shanghai's Tianma Circuit has been a regular host on China's touring car scene

The penultimate round of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship season is upon us, with the series making its first ever visit to mainland China.

After originally being slated for Zhaoping’s Guagdong International Circuit, organisers arranged for a late venue change to Shanghai’s Tianma Circuit so it would coincide with the season finale of the Chinese Touring Car Championship.

The RichardsF1.com team previews this weekend’s action and takes a close look at many of the talking points that will lay ahead…

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The Circuit

2011 FIA WTCC RACE OF CHINA
Tianma Circuit Map
Date: 4-6 November 2011 Lap Length: 2.063km
Race Lap Record: Not yet established
Event Schedule: Free Test Session Fri 14:00-14:30
  Free Practice Session 1 Sat 09:10-09:40
  Free Practice Session 2 Sat 12:00-12:30
  Qualifying Q1 Sat 15:15-15:35
  Qualifying Q2 Sat 15:40-15:50
  Warm-Up Sun 09:30-09:45
  Race 1 (25 laps, 52km) Sun 14:55-15:20
  Race 2 (25 laps, 52km) Sun 16:10-16:35

Located on the western outskirts of Shanghai, the Tianma Circuit is a permanent facility that has already played host to several rounds of the Chinese Touring Car Championship and the Chinese Superbike Championship.

At just over two kilometres in length, it is the shortest circuit on the calendar, meaning that drivers will compete in two 25-lap races over the weekend. These being the longest races on the calendar, car set-up (to get a good chassis balance in the slow corners so as to minimise tyre wear) will be crucial.

Drivers expected to reach top speeds of up to 180km/h, and an average lap speed of 90-100km/h is expected, giving a lap-time of roughly 1m18s. The 14-corner circuit’s short length will make overtaking difficult, meaning that a good qualifying result will be very important here.

 

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The Players

Fans will be seeing a 22-car field for this weekend’s two races, with the week’s build-up seeing a bit of shuffling among the ranks of the Independent Trophy drivers.

At the front of the field, the RML Chevrolet squad will be dropping back to its three-car operation after running a fourth car at the previous round in Japan for local rally star Toshihiro Arai. SUNRED Engineering will be doing likewise, when it ran a seventh SR León 1.6T for local driver Hiroki Yoshimoto.

As we reported earlier this week, perennial backmarker Fabio Fabiani will be back in action, although this time in a normally-aspirated BMW 320si run by the Engstler outfit, after the Italian spent his previous races achieving very little for Scuderia Proteam.

Fabiani takes over the car driven by Charles Ng at Suzuka, with Ng moving into the DeTeam KK turbocharged BMW 320TC driven by Masaki Kano at the last round.

Fabiani’s place at Proteam has been taken by Hong Kong driver Philip Ma Chingh Yeung.

Given the shortness of the Tianma circuit and the venue’s tight confines, stewards may need to keep a close eye out on the competitiveness of the field’s slower drivers, and we could see a smaller starting grid if they don’t allow some of the less-competitive runners to start if they fail to qualify.

 

2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of China):

No. Entrant Car Driver
1. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Yvan Muller FRA
2. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Robert Huff GBR
3. Lukoil-SUNRED Sunred SR León 1.6T Gabriele Tarquini ITA
4. Lukoil-SUNRED Sunred SR León 1.6T Aleksei Dudukalo RUS
5. Zengõ-Dension Team BMW BMW 320 TC Norbert Michelisz HUN
7. SEAT Swiss Racing by SUNRED Sunred SR León 1.6T Fredy Barth SUI
8. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Alain Menu SUI
9. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Darryl O’Young HKG
10. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Yukinori Taniguchi JPN
11. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Kristian Poulsen DEN
12. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Franz Engstler DEU
15. ROAL Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Tom Coronel NED
17. SUNRED Engineering Sunred SR León 1.6T Michel Nykjær DEN
18. SUNRED Engineering Sunred SR León 1.6T Tiago Monteiro POR
20. Scuderia Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320 TC Javier Villa García ESP
21. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320si Fabio Fabiani ITA
23. Scuderia Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320si Philip Ma Chingh Yeung HKG
25. Scuderia Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320 TC Mehdi Bennani MOR
29. Wiechers-Sport BMW BMW 320 TC Colin Turkington GBR
30. Polestar Volvo Volvo Volvo C30 1.6T Robert Dahlgren SWE
51. DeTeam KK Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Charles Ka-Ki Ng HKG
74. SUNRED Engineering Sunred SR León 1.6T Pepe Oriola ESP

 * Subject to final FIA confirmation

 

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The Form Guide

A pair of podium finishes for Robert Huff was enough to ensure the British driver was able to claim a couple of championship points in the lead enjoyed by his Chevrolet team-mate Yvan Muller.

While Huff went on to achieve third- and second-placed finishes at Suzuka, Muller’s fourth- and third-placed results in the same races saw his lead trimmed to 13 points.

So it’ll be all eyes to the front of the field as the pair get set to do battle once again, and a slip-up for either could completely change the game, with only four races left in the season.

The slower nature of the circuit could favour the front-wheel-drive cars, and this could be a weekend where the shorter-wheelbase SUNREDs might be more competitive. The León hatchbacks have not enjoyed the most competitive of seasons, but this could be a venue that helps them bridge the gap.

Michel Nykjaer claimed his maiden WTCC podium at Suzuka; could he go one better? Robert Dahlgren was again impressive in his Volvo

At some stage, Robert Dahlgren’s luck has got to come good. The Volvo driver was again mightily impressive at Suzuka, and managed to split the Chevrolets in qualifying. After being taken out in the first few hundred metes of the opening race, he finished a rapid fifth in Race 2, setting fastest lap along the way. Could this be the weekend where we finally see him on the podium?

Make sure you stay tuned to the Richard’s F1 website this weekend for the latest news and results in this championship series!

[Original images via FIA WTCC Media and Omnicorse]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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