A host of new and familiar faces will be on the grid over the course of the final three rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Following the departure of Darryl O’Young to rival Independent Trophy squad Bamboo Engineering, the Special Tune Racing SEAT team has confirmed that René Münnich will make his championship debut at next weekend’s Race of Japan at Suzuka.
Münnich – a four-time rallycross champion in his homeland – currently serves as a driver owner with his eponymous team, which competes in the FIA GT1 World Championship.
It being the German’s first ever visit to Suzuka in WTCC machinery, Münnich has confirmed that he will use the outing to evaluate the state of the series, with a view to moving his team into the championship next year.
“It is a good opportunity for me to evaluate the WTCC,” he said during the announcement.
“Competition in the WTCC is of the highest level, so it will take some time to get used to it. And I also want to use this time to investigate the possibility for our team to join the championship next year.”
Meanwhile, the WTCC is set to welcome back a more familiar face in the form of Swiss racer Fredy Barth, who will take over Tiago Monteiro’s seat in the Tuenti Racing SUNRED SEAT for the final two rounds at Shanghai and Macau. This announcement will follow Monteiro making his move to Honda’s works-supported team ahead of its full-time assault on the WTCC next year.
Barth raced in the WTCC on a full-time basis last year with backing from SEAT’s Swiss Racing arm (pictured top), but he failed to secure a seat on this year’s grid following a huge practice accident at last year’s championship round at Macau.
“It was always our goal to return, with the focus being on a full entry in 2013,” the 32-year-old is quoted as saying, with confirmation that SEAT Swiss Racing is once again bankrolling this year’s effort.
The SUNRED team has confirmed that it will field an extra car for the final three championship rounds at Suzuka, Shanghai and Macau, which it will offer to local drivers.
Former GP2 Series racing driver Hiroki Yoshimoto will race for the team at next weekend’s Suzuka round – as he did for the team at last year’s event (pictured, above left) – while perennial Macau WTCC guest driver Andre Couto will get behind the wheel at the season-ending round at Macau. No driver has yet been confirmed for the round at Shanghai.
Couto – along with regular WTCC guest racer Jo Merszei, who is already locked in for a guest drive with Team Engstler BMW – will be one of seven local drivers vying for a spot on the grid at the season-ending Macau round.
Mak Ka Lok and Henry Ho will both field privately-entered BMW 320si entries, with Eurico de Jesus will run in a Honda Accord Euro R, formerly campaigned by the JAS Motorsport squad in the 2009 WTCC season.
Meanwhile, the China Dragon Racing squad has announced that it will return once again to Macau, fielding three venerable Chevrolet Lacetti entries for Felipe de Souza, Kin Veng Ng and Celio Alves Dias.