It’s been a hotly contested season of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, and this weekend sees the curtain brought down on the series’ European leg of the championship campaign.
Let’s take a look at our preview of this year’s Race of Portugal, which will be held around the tight and twisty streets of Porto…
|2013 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF PORTUGAL
|Date:||29-30 June 2013|
|Venue:||Circuito da Boavista, downtown Porto, Portugal|
|Race Lap Record:||2:05.846, Rob Huff (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) – 2011|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:15-09:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:30-12:00|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 15:00-15:30|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 15:35:15:50|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 09:00-09:15|
|Race 1 (11 laps, 53km)||Sun 11:20-11:50|
|Race 2 (12 laps, 53km)||Sun 17:05-17:35|
|Past Winners:||Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 1)*|
|Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 2)*|
|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)|
* Denotes event held at Algarve
** Denotes event held at Estoril
Porto’s Circuito da Boavista is one of three street circuits on the 2013 World Touring Car Championship calendar, with the others being at Marrakech and the traditional season-ending round at Macau.
One of the slowest circuit’s on the calendar, the average speed around the 4.8-kilometre lap barely tops out at 120km/h, and its a vast contrast from the plunging the Algarve circuit that played host to last year’s Race of Portugal.
There are plenty of tight, blind corners and low-speed ‘follow my leader’ sections, while the higher-speed straights have been blunted with the insertion of chicanes to slow the cars down.
Take a look at Tom Coronel’s view of the Circuito da Boavista:
The final European round of the year sees the season’s biggest 25 cars competing around the tight and twisty circuit, with Tom Boardman (Special Tune Racing) and Hugo Valente (Campos Racing) both returning to the fold in their SEAT León WTCC entries.
The other change in the field is that SEAT stalwart Pepe Oriola has changed machines. The Spanish teenager has parted ways with SEAT and will compete in an ex-RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T for the remainder of the season. For more on that 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*|
|21.||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Nikolay Karamyshev*|
|22.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Tom Boardman*|
|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||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
You’d have to rewind the clock back to 2010 to recall the last time that anything other than a Chevrolet Cruze took victory in the World Touring Car Championship’s visits to Portugal, and on the basis of current form, it’s hard to see how championship leader Yvan Muller won’t repeat the dose at least once come Sunday afternoon.
The Frenchman is in imperious form. Miles in front in the Drivers’ Championship race, he could switch to a more conservative mode for the remainder of the season and probably still emerge on top for a fourth WTCC crown. But that’s not his style. Muller is an artisan behind the wheel, and he’ll want nothing less than a perfect weekend with two race wins.
Of course, his closest challenge is likely to come from his own camp. RML teammate Tom Chilton is desperate to claim his maiden win, while the Bamboo Engineering duo of James Nash and Alex MacDowall have been consistently competitive as they chase fellow Chevrolet runner Michel Nykjær in the battle for the Independent Trophy honours.
Nykjær has been particularly impressive in his full-time return to the WTCC. The solid Dane has claimed three wins in his NIKA Racing Chevrolet, showing excellent speed in both qualifying and the races to lie third overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The three-car Honda effort is also well-placed to do well this weekend, after being a 30 kilogram weight reduction in the latest round of round-by-round compensation weight adjustments to keep the field closely bunched. Local driver Tiago Monteiro will be looking to do well at his home event – as he has typically done, claiming two wins on Portuguese soil – after a troubled start to his 2013 season.
With all five manufacturers performing well last time out at Moscow Raceway, the battle for midfield honours could be a closely-fought affair. Expect a variety of runners in BMW, LADA and SEAT colours to feature over the weekend.
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 Portugal!