The FIA World Touring Car Championship fires back into life this weekend with the fifth round of the championship season at Austria’s Salzburgring circuit.
A high-speed circuit modelled in the style of the tracks of yesteryear, this is one of our favourite events on the WTCC calendar. With last year’s two races providing fans with some seriously tyre-breaking races, we’re all set for what will hopefully be another pair of action-packed sprints to the chequered flag!
|2013 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF AUSTRIA
|Date:||18-19 May 2013|
|Venue:||Salzburgring, 15km east of Salzburg, Austria|
|Race Lap Record:||1:27.280, Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:45-12:15|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 15:00-15:20|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 15:25-15:35|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 08:45-09:00|
|Race 1 (12 laps, 53km)||Sun 12:50-13:20|
|Race 2 (12 laps, 53km)||Sun 13:50-14:20|
|Past Winners:||Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 1)|
|Stefano D’Aste (BMW 320TC)||2012 (Race 2)|
Behind Monza, the Salzburgring is the second-quickest track that the FIA World Touring Car Championship will visit, and this little gem – nestled within a narrow Alpin valley – would have to be one of the best racing circuits in Europe.
Little-used and generally unheard in major motorsport championships, this circuit may have a simply-looking layout, but it holds a daunting reputation for some fearsome top speeds and for being incredibly tough on tyres.
If anything, the Salzburgring is a throwback to the road racing circuits of yesteryear. The barriers are ultra close to the track edge and there is little in the way of run-off, which allows fans to get really close to the action. While the elevation changes are nowhere near as dramatic as the track’s (sadly disused) cousin, the Osterreichring, it is still a terrific venue at which to go racing.
The start/finish straight ends with a tight right-left chicane, which could be the source of major drama at the start of Sunday’s two races. Beyond that, there’s the track’s second straight which leads into the banked Nockstein-Kehre hairpin, before it opens out to the track’s highest-speed section.
At over a mile long, the back ‘straight’ flings the cars towards the constantly tightening Fahrerlagerkurve sweeper, which is a tortuous corner on tyres, before the track snakes its way back onto the pit straight for another exciting lap.
Rewind to 2012
The World Touring Car Championship made its first visit to the Salzburgring last year, and after a terrific weekend of racing, it’s only fitting that the circus returns again this year.
Drivers immediately loved the track’s high-speed stretches, and after Chevrolet cakewalked a safety car interrupted first race, all hell was to break loose in Race 2, which produced one of the most exciting races in the championship’s history.
Despite starting in the lower reaches of the top-ten, the Chevrolets of Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu had incredibly worked their way into another 1-2-3 formation run within a handful of laps.
But what they hadn’t counted on – or indeed, had anyone in a front-wheel-drive car – was how the Yokohama tyres wouldn’t cope through the high-speed Fahrerlagerkurve.
On the eighth lap, Menu crashed out with a front-left puncture, leaving Muller and Huff to close out the final laps to claim a 1-2 well ahead of the chasing BMWs or Tom Coronel and Stefano D’Aste. But the pair pushed perhaps a little too hard on the last lap, and both suffered front-left tyre failure through the final sweeper, leaving a disbelieving Coronel and D’Aste to duke it out for the win…
Are we set for another classic pair of races this year? We can only hope so!
The field has been trimmed to 23 cars for this weekend’s pair of twelve-lap races, following the announcement from Special Tune Racing that it will return Tom Boardman’s SEAT to its headquarters to undergo extensive repairs and analysis following its troubled start to the season. For more on the story, click here.
Here’s this weekend’s provisional entry list:
|1.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Gabriele Tarquini|
|5.||Zengõ Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||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.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||Mikhail Koslovskiy|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alex MacDowall*|
|10.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||James Thompson|
|12.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|14.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||James Nash*|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||NIKA Racing||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Michel Nykjær*|
|18.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Tiago Monteiro|
|19.||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Fernando Monje*|
|20.||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Hugo Valente*|
|23.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Tom Chilton|
|25.||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani*|
|26.||PB Racing||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste*|
|37.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||René Münnich*|
|38.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Marc Basseng|
|55.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Darryl O’Young*|
|73.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Fredy Barth*|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
With one-third of the 2013 season completed already, it’s already beginning to look like a two-horse race for championship honours between Yvan Muller and Gabriele Tarquini.
That in itself isn’t a surprise. The pair have four WTCC titles between them and bucketloads of experience in competing at the front and winning. With Tarquini on board, Honda has shown a rapid development in its charge towards the front of the field, and are now genuinely in contention for race wins each and every weekend.
With a proven and familiar Chevrolet Cruze package underneath him and no consistent competition from his stablemates, Muller looks set to lead the charge in his camp and he sits a steady 46 points clear of Tarquini.
Rob Huff and Tom Coronel – driving for SEAT and BMW respectively – have both shown that they too are capable of fighting at the front, but both would readily admit that being able to do it consistently in their ageing machinery is perhaps too much of an ask.
This pair really heading an even more entertaining scrap for ‘best of the rest’ honours, along with the likes of Pepe Oriola, Tom Chilton, James Nash, Alex MacDowall, Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Michel Nykjaer all in with a shout of claiming the final top-three spot in the overall Drivers’ Championship standings.
With the Salzburgring rewarding a car with great top speed and a gentleness to its tyres, the Cruzes should do well on the former, while the BMWs could find themselves in the game if either race – or both – runs without Safety Car interruptions.
No doubt the front-wheel-drive competitors will have learned their lesson after the tyre failures here last year, and will opt for less-aggressive camber set-ups this time around. That will certainly swing the pendulum back towards the BMWs, which have shown much-improved pace thanks to some weight-saving carbonfibre doors which have allowed them to get closer to the base weight limit at which they are allowed to run.
This again promises to be a fascinating weekend of touring car action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Austria!