The WTCC heads to Portugal this weekend for the seventh meeting of an enthralling 2012 season, which follows a surprise result last time out in Austria due to tyre issues for a number of drivers. Last time the WTCC raced at Portimão, tyre wear and punctures were also the dominant story of the weekend.
As usual, RichardsF1.com will be reporting from the sidelines, and we’ll bring you all of the action and gossip from Portimão as the action gets underway. Let’s take a look at our mega race preview…
|2012 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF PORTUGAL
|Date:||2-3 June 2012|
|Venue:||Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Portimão, Portugal|
|Race Lap Record:||1:56.984, Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León TDi) – 2010|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 12:10-12:40|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 14:15-14:35|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 14:40-14:50|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 09:00-09:15|
|Race 1 (11 laps, 51km)||Sun 13:05-13:35|
|Race 2 (11 laps, 51km)||Sun 15:35-16:05|
|Past Winners:||Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2011 (Race 1)*|
|Robert Huff (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2011 (Race 2)*|
|Tiago Monteiro (SR León TDi)||2010 (Race 1)|
|Gabriele Tarquini (SR León TDi)||2010 (Race 2)|
|Gabriele Tarquini (SR León TDi)||2009 (Race 1)*|
|Augusto Farfus (BMW 320si)||2009 (Race 2)*|
|Richard Rydell (SEAT León TDi)||2008 (Race 1)**|
|Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León TDi)||2008 (Race 2)**|
|Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lacetti)||2007 (Race 1)*|
|Andy Priaulx (BMW 320si)||2007 (Race 2)*|
|* Event held at Porto||** Event held at Estoril|
Opened in 2008, the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve is widely considered to be one of the finest motorsport facilities built in recent years.
Blessed with long straights and some heavy braking zones, overtaking is aplenty at this venue, and it’s also well-known for being tough on tyres.
Rewind to 2010
While Portugal has been a fixture on the FIA World Touring Car Championship since 2007, the series has only visited the Portimão once, in 2010.
Despite many feeling that the front-wheel-drive cars would be disadvantaged at this circuit, baking hot conditions played into their favour and allowed SEAT to sweep to wins in both races: Tiago Monteiro won the opening race, while Gabriele Tarquini charged from sixth on the grid to first to claim the win in Race 2.
This weekend sees a couple of changes in the field, with James Thompson returning for his second and final appearance of the season in the LADA Granta Sport. It promises to be a tough weekend for Thompson, who will not only need to demonstrate the improvements made to the Granta, but also master a circuit he’s never visited.
In the SEAT camp, Tom Boardman will finally switch to the marque’s new turbocharged engine after campaigning with the long in the tooth turbodiesel engine since the season’s second round in Spain.
This leaves Tiago Monteiro as the only SEAT runner left with an older-spec engine, although the hometown hero will continue to use the down-on-power SUNRED turbo engine he has run for much of the season while he awaits the availability of the newer-spec SEAT turbo.
Lastly, there is a change – of sorts! – in the Chevrolet ranks. Alain Manu’s #8 RML Chevrolet will take on the guise of the fictional Vaillante racing team for this weekend. The Swiss driver will pose as French motorsport comic book hero Michel Vaillante for the weekend, complete with a new uniform and helmet, along with freshly dyed hair and contact lenses!
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Portugal):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Aleksei Dudukalo*|
|5.||Zengõ Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz*|
|6.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler*|
|7.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*|
|8.||‘‘Vaillante’ Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alain Menu|
|11.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alex MacDowell*|
|12.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Pasquale di Sabatino*|
|14.||Team Aon||Ford Focus S2000 TC||James Nash|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|16.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Alberto Cerqui*|
|18.||Tuenti Racing Team||SR León 1.6T||Tiago Monteiro|
|20.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC||Darryl O’Young*|
|22.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC||Tom Boardman*|
|23.||Team Aon||Ford Focus S2000 TC||Tom Chilton|
|25.||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani*|
|26.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste*|
|27.||Zengõ Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Gábor Wéber*|
|69.||TMS LADA Sport||LADA Granta WTCC||James Thompson|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Pepe Oriola*|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
A ‘home ground advantage’ has perhaps never more apparent in this championship than with Tiago Monteiro, who typically excels whenever the series visits his homeland. Irrespective of whether it’s at Portimão, Estoril or Porto, he always seems to find an extra ounce of performance. Two of his four career wins have occurred on home soil, although the power disadvantage he suffers (courtesy of his SUNRED turbo engine) will make a hat trick of home wins unlikely this weekend.
The power advantage will be enjoyed by the grid’s five Chevrolets, but with all five Cruzes suffering punctures in the second race at the Salzburgring a fortnight ago, we could see a more circumspect approach from its works and independent teams. This in turn could make the competition closer this weekend.
This promises to be another fascinating instalment of World Touring Car Championship action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from the Algarve!