The Race of Italy, the third event of the 2011 World Touring Car Championship season happens this weekend at the historic Monza circuit.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into this weekend…
The round at Monza – known as Italy’s ‘Temple of Speed’ – is one of the most anticipated on the WTCC calendar, along with one of its most traditional.
The high-speed circuit has played host to the championship since it was re-formed in 2005, and remained on the calendar every year, with the exception of 2009 when the Race of Italy occurred at the Imola circuit.
The event is widely popular with fans, who flock to the circuit to support local hero Gabriele Tarquini, while Swiss fans will also make the trip south over the border to support front-running drivers Alain Menu and Fredy Barth.
The major manufacturers have all enjoyed success at this circuit, which will reward a car with a good aerodynamic profile, a strong engine and a set-up that doesn’t punish its tyres too much.
Last year’s two races both features several spectacular tyre failures in the closing laps, creating some surprise results, with Andy Priaulx winning in his BMW in the opening race, while Yvan Muller repeated the feat for Chevrolet in the second race.
The SEATs – by contrast, having enjoyed the most wins of any manufacturer here – found themselves struggling with tyre wear. Tarquini lost a certain win when he and second-placed Robert Huff both blew their front-left tyres on the final lap, and Michel Nykjær was robbed of his maiden WTCC win when the same fate befell him in Race 2.
This race is also the first in 2011 where changes to the cars’ compensation weights will be made, and it’s little surprise to see that all-conquering Chevrolet Cruze turbos fitted with the maximum 40kg of performance ballast. Meanwhile, the SEAT León TDI and BMW 320TCs will run with no penalty ballast due their average lap times being some 0.7 seconds slower than the Chevrolets in the opening two races of the season.
The Volvo C30 and normally-aspirated BMW 320si will run with a base weight that is a further 20kg lighter than the SEATs.
However, this may change if, as is expected, Volvo and SEAT decide to fit any of their respective cars with their new 1.6-litre turbo engines, and both marques will make their decision after running in a free test session on Thursday. Should any of these cars opt for the new engines, they will run with the maximum 40kg of penalty ballast as a ‘new car’.
The form team heading into this weekend is undoubtedly the factory RML Chevrolet outfit, which is enjoying a close three-way tussle between its drivers for the championship lead. Should the BMWs and SEATs be able to get their act together, then their front-running drivers could pose some serious competition. Expect the two races to be very closely fought this weekend.
A field of twenty-two drivers is listed for this weekend’s two nine-lap races, with Turkish driver Ibrahim Okyay making a one-off return to the championship after a two-year absence. He will enter a normally-aspirated BMW 320si as he evaluates a full-time return to the series in 2012.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Richard’s F1 website this weekend for the latest news and results in this championship series!
2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Italy):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Aleksei Dudukalo|
|5.||Zengõ-Dension Team||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz|
|7.||SEAT Swiss Racing||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Fredy Barth|
|8.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alain Menu|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Darryl O’Young|
|10.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yukinori Taniguchi|
|11.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Kristian Poulsen|
|12.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler|
|13.||Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Ibrahim Okyay|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Michel Nykjær|
|18.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Tiago Monteiro|
|20.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320 TC||Javier Villa García|
|21.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320si||Fabio Fabiani|
|25.||Scuderia Proteam||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani|
|30.||Polestar Volvo||Volvo C30||Robert Dahlgren|
|35.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Urs Sonderegger|
|65.||Deteam KK Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Marchy Lee Ying Kin|
|74.||SUNRED||SEAT León 2.0 TDI||Pepe Oriola|
* Subject to final FIA confirmation
[Original images via FIA WTCC official site]