The final round of a fascinating FIA World Touring Car Championship season is upon us, with a bumper field making its way to the historic Macau street circuit to do battle for the last time in 2011.
We will see two champions crowned this weekend. One will be the overall Drivers’ Championship crown, which will be decided between Chevrolet team-mates Yvan Muller and Robert Huff; while the Independent Trophy championship is a more open affair, with almost half a dozen drivers still in the running.
The RichardsF1.com team previews this weekend’s action and takes a close look at many of the talking points that will lay ahead…
|2011 FIA WTCC GUIA RACE OF MACAU
|Date:||17-20 November 2011||Lap Length:||6.115km|
|Race Lap Record:||2:32.076, Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León TDi) – 2009|
|Event Schedule:||Free Test Session||Thu 13:50-14:20|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 08:30-09:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 12:15-12:45|
|Qualifying Q1||Fri 15:25-15:55|
|Qualifying Q2||Fri 16:00-16:15|
|Race 1 (25 laps, 52km)||Sun 11:10-11:35|
|Race 2 (25 laps, 52km)||Sun 12:30-13:00|
|Past Winners: 2005||Race 1: Augusto Farfus (Alfa Romeo 156)|
Race 2: Duncan Huisman (BMW 320i)
|2006||Race 1: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320si)|
|Race 2: Jörg Müller (BMW 320si)|
|2007||Race 1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lacetti)|
|Race 2: Andy Priaulx (BMW 320si)|
|2008||Race 1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lacetti)|
|Race 2: Robert Huff (Chevrolet Lacetti)|
|2009||Race 1: Robert Huff (Chevrolet Cruze)|
|Race 2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320si)|
|2010||Race 1: Robert Huff (Chevrolet Cruze)|
|Race 2: Norbert Michelisz (SEAT León TDi)|
Macau’s infamous Guia street circuit will play host to the traditional season finale, with the championship being one of the support races for the presitigious Formula 3 Grand Prix.
The layout consists of several flat-out straights along the waterfront before the track heads inland and climbs up and down through the city’s narrow side streets. Many of the corners are completely blind, and the close confines of the track will punish the smallest mistake.
Trying to determine an effective set-up – that copes with both the long front straights and the twisty infield – is a huge challenge for drivers and teams, and it’s not unusual to see extreme set-ups being selected.
The year’s biggest field of 27 competitors will line up for the two nine-lap races along the former colony’s streets on Sunday, with the event drawing its usual crowd of local drivers making their first appearance of the year.
The biggest change in the line-up is the late withdrawal of Yukinori Taniguchi, whose Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet was comprehensively destroyed at the end of the first race at the last round in Shanghai. The team will be a one-car operation, with Hong Kong driver Darryl O’Young hoping to end a disappointing sophomore season on a high.
Over at Wiechers-Sport BMW, the team has taken the surprise decision to replace the red-hot Colin Turkington with Canadian touring car driver Gary Kwok, who will make his WTCC debut in the team’s 320TC, which Turkington took a second-placed finish at Shanghai a fortnight ago.
The SUNRED team has again expanded to a seven-car operation, this time offering a León 1.6T to regular WTCC guest driver André Couto (pictured right); his compatriot Joseph Rosa-Merszei will also make a return appearance, driving a normally-aspirated BMW 320si under the Team Engstler banner.
The grid will also see the biggest number of Super 2000-spec cars on the grid since the season-opener at Curitiba. Hong Kong driver Philip Ma makes his second appearance in a BMW 320si for Scuderia Proteam.
Three Macanese drivers will be making their WTCC debuts this weekend. Hong Kong based Corsa Motorsport is bringing a pair of Chevrolet Lacettis for Filipe de Souza and Kuok Io Leong, and the RPM Motorsport outfit is bringing a BMW 320si for Mak Ka Lok.
And we also welcome a Peugeot back to the WTCC grid for the first time since 2006, with Hong Kong driver Lo Ka Chun driving a Peugeot 308 for the 778 Auto Sport operation.
2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Macau):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||Aleksei Dudukalo|
|5.||Zengõ-Dension Team||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz|
|7.||SEAT Swiss Racing by SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||Fredy Barth|
|8.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alain Menu|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Darryl O’Young|
|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 Engineering||SR León 1.6T||Michel Nykjær|
|18.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||Tiago Monteiro|
|20.||Scuderia Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Javier Villa García|
|23.||Scuderia Proteam Racing||BMW 320si||Philip Ma Ching Yeung|
|25.||Scuderia Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani|
|28.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Gary Kwok|
|30.||Polestar Volvo||Volvo C30 1.6T||Robert Dahlgren|
|51.||DeTeam KK Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Charles Ka-Ki Ng|
|52.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320si||Joseph Rosa-Merszei|
|66.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||André Couto|
|70.||RPM Racing Team||BMW 320si||Mak Ka Lok|
|74.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
|75.||Corsa Motorsport||Chevrolet Lacetti||Filipe de Souza|
|76.||RPM Racing Team||Chevrolet Lacetti||Kuok Io Keong|
|77.||778 Auto Sport||Peugeot 308||Lo Ka Chun|
* Subject to final FIA confirmation
The Form Guide
The top of the championship standings will see Chevrolet team-mates Yvan Muller and Rob Huff go toe-to-toe for the 2011 World Touring Car Championship title this weekend.
Muller is gunning for his third championship title, but he’s had to do all the work to overcome the early points’ deficit he had to Huff, who had skipped out to an early lead in the title race. In all, it’s been a season of changing fortunes and plenty of controversy for the RML pair.
Huff was the early championship favourite in the first half of the season, winning six of the first dozen races. By contrast, Muller’s start to the season was slow, and he didn’t clock up his first victory until the eighth race of the season.
Since then, the Frenchman has swept to a further eight race wins, while Huff’s last victory came at the second race at Porto in July, when he controversially elbowed Muller out of the way to claim the win.
Muller’s better weekend at the last round in China ensures he now holds a 20-point lead over Huff in the Drivers’ Championship; all he needs to do is beat Huff by five points or more in the first race and the title will be his.
Interestingly, however, while Muller has claimed the championship once before at this venue, he has never actually won a race here. Huff, meanwhile, has had rather better form here, claiming two pole positions and three race wins over the last three years.
Indeed, Chevrolet and BMW have enjoyed the best records at this circuit since the championship returned here in 2005, with five wins apiece out of the twelve races held here to-date. By contrast, Alfa Romeo and SEAT have claimed just one win each.
SEAT’s last win came at the hands of Norbert Michelisz, who claimed his maiden WTCC win in his debut season. This year sees the Hungarian driving in a BMW, and despite his promising form in the early rounds (particularly at Hungary), his form has faded dramatically. No doubt he’ll be hoping he can repeat his win here last year to keep his Independent Trophy hopes alive.
The favourite for the Independent Trophy crown is the current points’ leader Kristian Poulsen, who has driven excellently all year in the Engstler BMW. Currently sitting 23 points ahead of Michelisz, he is well-placed to claim his first title, but Macau is such a funny circuit that it’s still difficult to predict.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Richard’s F1 website this weekend for the latest news and results in this championship series!