After a lengthy break, the FIA World Touring Car Championship action gets underway for the eighth event on the calendar at Curitiba in Brazil.
As usual, RichardsF1.com will be reporting from the sidelines, and we’ll bring you all of the action and gossip from Curitiba as the action gets underway. Let’s take a look at our mega race preview…
|2012 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF BRAZIL
|Date:||20-22 July 2012|
Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba, Curitiba, Brazil
|Event Schedule:||Free Test Session||Fri 14:00-14:30|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:20-08:50|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:15-11:45|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 16:00-16:20|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 16:25-16:35|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 09:05-09:20|
|Race 1 (14 laps, 52km)||Sun 15:05-15:35|
|Race 2 (14 laps, 52km)||Sun 16:20-16:50|
Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Circuito Raul Boesel’ after the city’s most famous motorsport export, the Curitiba circuit will play host to the FIA World Touring Car Championship for the seventh time.
A mainstay on the championship calendar, the track was opened in 1967. A bumpy circuit with a mixture of high- and low-speed circuits, the track will provide a host of challenges to each of the four manufacturers on duty this weekend.
With a start/finish straight over one kilometre in length, the best overtaking opportunity on the lap is into the fiddle right-left chicane at the end, which has often been the site of plenty of wheel-banging and panel damage over the years.
Rewind to 2011
Last year’s event served as the 2011 WTCC season-opener, and with Chevrolet claiming comfortable wins in both races, it served as a warning shot to rivals SEAT and BMW as to how things would pan out for the rest of the season: the Chevrolet team won all but two of the races that year in one of the most dominant displays in any major motorsport championship.
Rob Huff led home a 1-2-3 in the opening race, while Alain Menu fought his way through and overcame Tom Coronel in the second race to kick off his tally of wins that year.
This weekend sees a couple of changes in the line-up from the last time the pack raced in anger at Portugal in the beginning of June.
As we reported this morning, an unwell Pasquale di Sabatino will be missing in action this weekend in the Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet while he continues his recovery from a nasty bout of pneumonia. Danish racer Michel Nykjær will take his place, making a one-off return to the championship this weekend.
The Zengõ Motorsport team will be reduced to a one-car effort this weekend, with Gábor Wéber’s deal with the team having now finished. The Hungarian was generally impressive in his handful of races with the team, and will be hoping he can string enough of a budget together to make a return in the BMW 320TC later in the year.
Fresh from winning the FIA European Touring Car Cup, Spanish teenager Fernando Monje will be back on the WTCC grid for the first time since the Race of Spain at Valencia. Monje will be given use of a SUNRED SEAT León fitted with SEAT’s new 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, having run one of its older-spec diesel units during his last outing.
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Brazil):
|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*|
|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*|
|11.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Michel Nykjær|
|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*|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Pepe Oriola*|
|88.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Fernando Monje*|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
The long gap in between WTCC outings has seen several major news items break, not least of which being Chevrolet’s shock decision to end its factory support of the championship at the end of the season. Quite what this means for the frontrunning RML squad and its trio of drivers remains to be seen, and no doubt there is some frantic negotiating happening behind the scenes to keep the project going – in whatever form – into 2013 and beyond.
The other major news item has been the signing of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro to Honda’s works effort for the 2013 season. Monteiro will part with SEAT before the end of the year when Honda has a few exploratory outings in the Asian rounds, while Tarquini will join the effort full-time next year. Their departure will be a major blow to SEAT, who could be an attractive home for the three leading Chevrolet drivers.
Curitiba is not a circuit that has been proven to favour one manufacturer over the others, and consequently all four operations – Chevrolet, SEAT, BMW and Ford – are talking up their prospects for a decent showing this weekend.
Chevrolet is again the form team, and it will be an excellent effort for anyone from the rival outfits to topple them 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 Curitiba!