After a month’s summer break, the World Touring Car Championship kicks back into life with this weekend’s Race of Spain at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit, the ninth round of the 2011 season.
Richard’s F1 previews this weekend’s action and takes a look at some of the talking points leading into this weekend…
|2011 FIA WTCC RACE OF SPAIN
|Date:||3-4 September 2011||Lap Length:||4.005km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:43.795, Dirk Müller (BMW 320i) – 2005|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:30-12:00|
|Qualifying Q1||Sat 14:30-14:50|
|Qualifying Q2||Sat 14:55-15:05|
|Race 1 (13 laps, 52km)||Sun 13:35-14:05|
|Race 2 (13 laps, 52km)||Sun 15:05-15:35|
|Past Winners: 2005||Race 1: Jordi Gené (SEAT León)|
|Race 2: Jörg Müller (BMW 320i)|
|2006||Race 1: Augusto Farfus (Alfa Romeo 156)|
|Race 2: Jörg Müller (BMW 320si)|
|2007||Race 1: James Thompson (Alfa Romeo 156)|
|Race 2: James Thompson (Alfa Romeo 156)|
|2008||Race 1: Robert Huff (Chevrolet Lacetti)|
|Race 2: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lacetti)|
|2009||Race 1: Yvan Muller (SEAT León TDi)|
|Race 2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320si)|
|2010||Race 1: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León TDi)|
|Race 2: Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León TDi)|
Names after Spanish motorcycle rider Ricardo Tormo, the next stop on the WTCC calendar is a stadium-like circuit located just outside the Spanish town of Cheste.
Built in 1999, it has seating capacity for 60,000 fans, but it can actually hold a total doubling that when one includes its excellent general admission areas that offer great views of the circuit.
Its mild climate makes it a popular test venue for Formula 1 teams during the off-season, while it also plays host to the MotoGP, DTM, and Formula 3 championships, among a host of other categories.
One of just two anticlockwise circuits on the calendar (Porto being the other), the track’s layout features a variety of corner types that means it does not favour any particular carmaker in the history of the WTCC.
While far from impossible, overtaking is a tougher ask here than at some other circuits, with the braking zones at Turn 2 and the last corner proving to be the best spots to try and pass the driver in front.
The final European round of the 2011 WTCC championship sees the grid size remain at 21 entrants, although the series will be welcoming Russian racer David Sigacev in the Engstler-engineered BMW 320TC formerly run by Hong Kong driver Marchy Lee.
And while Sigacev makes his series debut this weekend, he effectively takes the place of Turkish touring car champion Ibrahim Okyay, who completed his final championship outing of the season in his privately entered older-spec BMW.
The grid’s two Spanish drivers – Javier Villa in the Proteam Racing BMW 320 TC and SUNRED’s Pepe Oriola – will find themselves well support this weekend as they battle for honours in the Yokohama Independents’ Trophy.
2011 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Spain):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil-SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||Aleksei Dudukalo|
|5.||Zengõ-Dension Team||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz|
|7.||SEAT Swiss Racing by SUNRED||SR León 1.6T||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|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||Michel Nykjær|
|18.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||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|
|26.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste|
|30.||Polestar Volvo||Volvo C30 1.6T||Robert Dahlgren|
|64.||DeTeam KK Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||David Sigacev|
|74.||SUNRED Engineering||SR León 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
* Subject to final FIA confirmation
The Form Guide
Historically, the Ricardo Tormo circuit has thrown up a host of different winners – drivers and manufacturers – effectively making this a potentially difficult race weekend to predict.
On its home circuit, SEAT leads the way with four race victories, while BMW and Alfa Romeo follow with three apiece. Chevrolet also has two wins, albeit with its older Lacetti model. What this effectively means is that a win for any of the cars in Race 1 will be the first for that model at this circuit.
Last year saw Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro claim a win apiece in the SEAT León TDi, which has since been replaced by the SUNRED León 1.6T. The new turbocharged car has shown steady improvement since it made its debut in the early part of the season, and perhaps the support of the local fans could see the new model collect its first win of the season.
There being just six races left this season, only four drivers are in the title hunt, although one could effectively discount fourth-placed Gabriele Tarquini from this, as he’d need to win every race and ensure the leading Chevrolets scarcely landed a point.
The real battle over title honours is between the three works Chevrolet drivers. Robert Huff has shown some sparkling early-season form, but he’s found his lead progressively eroded by his erstwhile team-mate, the two-time WTCC title holder Yvan Muller, who now lies just six points adrift of the Briton.
Third-placed Alain Menu now lies 63 points behind Muller, and unless he can come up with a win this weekend, he may find himself consigned into a supporting role for the rest of the season.
If anything, it is the Independents’ Trophy battle that is going to continue right until the season finale at Macau, with the top six drivers separated by just ten points.
Franz Engstler’s popular win in the last race at Oschersleben finally saw BMW break its 2011 duck – admittedly not with the driver they had expected to win – and the German marque will be hoping it can net itself its fourth win at the Valencia circuit, for pride if nothing else.
And having threatened to net the car’s first visit to the podium on several occasions this year, perhaps Robert Dahlgren can finally get Volvo onto the rostrum this weekend. The former Swedish Touring Car Champion has proved a revelation this season, qualifying and racing hard on unfamiliar tracks in a little-developed car. He certainly has punched well above his weight this year, and it would be richly deserved.
Make sure you stay tuned to the Richard’s F1 website this weekend for the latest news and results in this championship series!
[Original images via FIA WTCC Media]