The penultimate round of the 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship season will see the series make its first visit to Thailand, where Citroën Racing’s José María López will be hoping to claim back-to-back championship titles.
|2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship Race of Thailand|
|Date||30 Oct – 01 Nov 2015||Lap Length||4.554km|
|Open Test Session||Sat 09:00-09:30||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 14:30-15:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 17:00-17:30||Qualifying Session 1||Sun 10:00-10:20|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 10:25-10:35||Qualifying Session 3||Sat 10:40-10:50|
|Race 1 (14 laps)||Sun 16:25-17:05||Race 2 (14 laps)||Sun 17:30-18:00|
Session times quoted in Indochina Time (GMT + 07:00)
The modern, twelve-turn Chang International Circuit is one of five new venues on that the FIA World Touring Car Championship visits in 2015.
Located 410 kilometres northeast of the Thai capital, Bangkok, the 4.5-kilometre circuit derives its name from a sponsorship agreement with the country’s local beer. Built to FIA and FIM standards – it one day hopes to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix – the circuit complex also houses a retail park and football stadium.
The majority of drivers were suitably impressed with the track after sampling it in Saturday morning’s opening test session, with former F1 driver Gabriele Tarquini praising the standards of the facility.
“This is a proper Formula 1-standard track,” the Italian veteran said. “The layout is interesting and I’m sure it will provide some exciting racing, because there is a clear overtaking point at Turn 3, but the track is also wide enough to allow you to take different lines, so it’s going to be interesting.
“I looked very carefully at the track obviously, and there are several details such as the drains to the side of the road which make it clear that this track is very advanced and very well-built. I am really impressed.”
The Form Guide
It will take a complete disaster for José María López not to wrap up the championship title this weekend. Teammate Yvan Muller is the only driver within mathematical contention of challenging the Argentine driver, and the French veteran will have a mountain to climb if he’s to do so.
Muller must outscore López by at least five points in qualifying and the opening race remain in the mix, and then claw back a further 20 points on the reigning champion to take the title fight into the season-ending round in Qatar. It’s a tall order which even Muller admits is all but impossible.
“Mathematically, I’m still in with a shot in the title race. But realistically, I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said ahead of this weekend’s pair of races.
“I would have to produce two perfect weekends and hope that Pechito went virtually pointless…it seems a little far-fetched. Above all, I will be trying to enjoy myself, to perform well and to win some more races.”
The four-car Citroën Racing squad will have its task made easier thanks to a 40-kilogram ballast increase for the Honda Civics following the Japanese cars’ successes in the preceding rounds in Japan and China. The Civics have previously struggled when made to carry additional weight, and while there have been some developments to the cars in recent months, it is not expected that they will be able to challenge for outright pace.
China podium-finisher Gabriele Tarquini has already indicated he will be aiming for victory in Race 2, where the fastest ten qualifiers’ starting order is reversed. The Italian will serve a five-place grid penalty in Race 1 for his contact with Rob Huff’s LADA in Shanghai, and so will instead throw all of his efforts at trying to claim the best possible grid position for Sunday evening’s second race.
Race 2 will mark the first ever twilight race for the WTCC. This weekend sees a compact two-day schedule, with qualifying taking place on Sunday morning before the two 14-lap races late in the afternoon.
The three LADA Vestas will again run without any compensation weight and could find themselves playing something of a spoiling role in qualifying and Race 2. The team’s line-up of Huff, Nicolas Lapierre and Nick Catsburg remains unchanged for the third round running, with the trio hoping to give the promising car its first race win.
Also running at minimum weight will be the RML Chevrolet Cruze TC1s, although none are really expected to feature for anything other than minor points on the basis of recent form.
Two drivers, however, do come into this weekend with prior racing experience at the Chang International Circuit. Campos Racing drivers Hugo Valente – along with local driver and series debutante Tin Sritrai – raced here last weekend when the TCR International Series staged its championship round here.
But for a mechanical issue prior to the start of the race, Valente should have started that weekend’s second race from pole position. Sritrai, however, fared better by claiming victory in the TCR Asia class, driving an Asia Racing Team entered SEAT León Cup Racer.
Images via FIA WTCC