The final round of the 2010 World Touring Car Championship season gets underway in Macau this weekend, with the championship series one of the support acts for the annual Formula 3 festival held in the former Portuguese enclave. As usual, Richard’s F1 will be bringing you all of the action from the world’s best touring car championship series.
The Guia Race has been a mainstay on the international touring car scene for over 40 years, with the first ever touring car race happening on the streets in 1964. The greats of the international touring car scene have won on Macau, with the likes of Hans-Joachim Stuck, Duncan Huisman, Joachim Winkelhock and Emanuele Pirro achieving multiple wins each before the World Touring Championship was re-formed in 2005.
In the ten previous WTCC races held here, the wins have been shared between six different drivers, with the likes of Andy Priaulx, Augusto Farfus, Robert Huff and Alain Menu each winning here twice.
And since the Super 2000 cars first graced the gambling mecca in 2004, BMW has won over half of the races here, with Chevrolet picking up five wins, and Alfa Romeo one. SEAT has (to-date) gone winless on the high-speed street circuit.
WTCC fans will have seen the news that Yvan Muller has been crowned the Drivers’ Champion after his Chevrolet team had their appeal against BMW’s use of sequential gearboxes at the last round in Okayama accepted, meaning that this year’s Macau event will be the first time that the Drivers’ Championship has not been decided on the famous 6-kilometre street circuit.
However, the Manufacturers’ championship is still open, although Chevrolet’s 74-point margin over SEAT makes it virtually unstoppable en route to its first manufacturer’s crown.
The Independent Trophy crown is still up for grabs, and the challengers face the only double-points’ round of the championship season, a maximum of 40 points up for grabs should a driver claim class wins in each race this weekend. The top five drivers in the points standings – Sergio Hernández, Darryl O’Young, Kristian Poulsen, Franz Engstler and Stefano D’Aste – are all mathematically in the hunt to take the title this weekend, and it should be a hotly fought battle in the midfield.
This weekend’s round also sees the grid swell to a thirty-car entry list, with the field expanded by dint of a host of one-off appearances from the southeast Asian motorsport scene.
Japanese driver Masaki Kano is the latest addition to the list of Japanese drivers who have contested the 2010 WTCC season, and will take over from his compatriot Yoshihiro Ito in the Liqui Moly Engstler BMW. This will mark the third WTCC Macau event at which the 34-year-old from Hyogo has competed.
Kano’s compatriot, Nobuteru Taniguchi, will contest a second round this season with Scuderia Proteam BMW.
Given the location of this weekend’s round, it’s not surprising to see a strong contingent of Chinese drivers present this weekend. Joining series regular Darryl O’Young will be fellow Hong Kong driver Philip Ma Ching Yeung, who will give Honda its first WTCC outing since 2008, driving a former JAS Motorsport Honda Accord Euro run by the Jacob & Co Racing team.
Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Chen will make another appearance in a Proteam Motorsport BMW after his last appearance at Okayama.
Five Macau-based drivers will be present on the grid this weekend, with the most high-profile being André Couto (SR Sport SEAT León TDI). His compatriot Henry Ho (Ho Chun Kei BMW 320si) makes another appearance after rejoining the series in Okayama, and this weekend’s event will also see the return of Joseph Rosa Merszei, who raced in Macau last year and makes his 2010 appearance for Liqui Moly Engstler. WTCC rookies Chan Kin Man (RPM Racing Honda Accord) and Kuok Io Keong (Andy Racing Honda Civic) make their WTCC debuts this weekend.
Another driver making his WTCC debut is Portugal’s former A1GP representative César Campaniço, who will make his first ever appearance in the series driving a BMW 320si run by Novadriver Total.
And lastly, the official FIA entry list is showing Jordi Gené will make a return to the SR Sport cockpit after a one-week absence while Michaël Rossi had a go in the León TDI at Okayama.