2012 WTCC Race of Spain Preview

After an exciting Monza season-opener at the beginning of the month, the second round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship gets underway this weekend with the field heading to its traditional Spanish stomping ground at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit.

RichardsF1.com will be right here in the thick of it, and we’ll bring you all of the action and gossip from Spain as the tin-tops go racing. Let’s take a look at our bumper race preview…

The Circuit

Monza Circuit Map
Date: 31 March – 01 April 2012
Lap Length: 4.005km
Race Lap Record: 1:43.795, Dirk Müller (BMW 320i) – 2005
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Sat 09:15-09:45
Free Practice Session 2 Sat 12:00-12:30
Qualifying Session 1 Sat 14:00-14:20
Qualifying Session 2 Sat 14:25-14:35
Sunday Warm-Up Sun 09:30-09:45
Race 1 (14 laps, 56km) Sun 14:35-15:05
Race 2 (14 laps, 56km) Sun 17:20-17:50
Past Winners: Jordi Gené (SEAT León) 2005 (Race 1)
Jorg Müller (BMW 320i) 2005 (Race 2)
Augusto Farfus (Alfa Romeo 156) 2006 (Race 1)
Jorg Müller (BMW 320si) 2006 (Race 2)
James Thompson (Alfa Romeo 156) 2007 (Race 1)
James Thompson (Alfa Romeo 156) 2007 (Race 2)
Robert Huff (Chevrolet Lacetti) 2008 (Race 1)
Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lacetti) 2008 (Race 2)
Yvan Muller (SEAT León TDI) 2009 (Race 1)
Augusto Farfus (BMW 320si) 2009 (Race 2)
Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León TDI) 2010 (Race 1)
Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León TDI) 2010 (Race 2)
  Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) 2011 (Race 1)
  Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) 2011 (Race 2)

Named 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.

The Ricardo Tormo circuit has traditionally produced close racing One of just two anticlockwise circuits on the calendar (Marrakech 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. Out of this year’s current crop of manufacturers, SEAT has won four, BMW three and Chevrolet four of the fourteen races held here to date.

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.

Rewind to 2011

Yvan Muller claimed a rather unexpected double-win in the championship’s last visit to Valencia, which was also the final European round of the season (as opposed to being the second round this year).

The Frenchman led team-mate Alain Menu to a Chevrolet 1-2 and claimed the championship lead for the first time, with his cause helped by some first-lap contact for team-mate and championship rival Robert Huff, who was nerfed into a half-spin by Menu.

BMW self-destructed and thre away certain victory here last year The Race 1 podium was rounded out by Tom Coronel in the ROAL BMW. The Dutchman would be a major player in the afternoon’s second race, using his customary fast starts to leap into the lead.

What should have been a comfortable (and rare) victory to BMW turned into disaster when Coronel was overtaken by local hero Javier Villa in the rival Proteam BMW, with the Spaniard giving Coronel a nudge at Turn 2 to get by.

Coronel immediately launched a counterattack, but only succeeded in hitting Villa. He dropped to fourth in the melee, and handed the lead to third-placed Norbert Michelisz, who promptly lost the lead to the chasing Muller, who was battling on heavily-worn tyres.

Trying to regain his position at the final corner, Michelisz attempted an impossible lunge trying to keep third-placed Huff at bay, and only succeeded in having a wild spin, giving the place to Huff, who was followed over the line by Menu. The result gave Chevrolet its second Manufacturers’ Championship crown with three rounds of the championship still to go.


The Players

This weekend’s entry list will feature a 24-car effort – one up from the season-opener at Monza – although two drivers will be making their first appearance of the season at Valencia.

Fernando Monje Fernando Monje joins the grid for his home race, which will also mark his championship debut. The 19-year-old has been provisionally entered for a full season with SUNRED Engineering, but he will miss three rounds over the year to compete in the clashing FIA European Touring Car Cup events. He cakewalked the first at Monza, and he’s expected to achieve similar results over a rather thin field at the subsequent events at the Slovakiaring and the Salzburgring. He will be competing in the same SEAT León TDi he raced two back-to-back wins at Monza.

Making his WTCC return this weekend will be Tom Boardman in the second Special Tune Racing SEAT outfit. The Englishman was meant to have raced at the Monza event at the beginning of March, but he was sidelined due to a shortage of available parts needed to be fitted to his engine. The parts shortage has not yet been rectified, and so he will race this weekend with a turbodiesel unit. In all, four of the eight SEATs in action this weekend will be turbodiesel-powered.

Missing from this weekend’s action will be Rickard Rydell, who made a one-off appearance for Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden as part of his preparation to defend his Scandinavian Touring Car Championship crown.


2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Spain):

No. Entrant Car Driver  
1. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Yvan Muller FRA
2. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Robert Huff GBR
3. Lukoil Racing Team SEAT SEAT León 1.6T WTCC Gabriele Tarquini ITA
4. Lukoil Racing Team SEAT SEAT León 1.6T WTCC Aleksei Dudukalo* RUS
5. Zengõ Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Norbert Michelisz* HUN
6. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Franz Engstler* DEU
7. Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW BMW 320 TC Charles Ka-Ki Ng* HKG
8. RML Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Alain Menu SUI
11. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Alex MacDowell* GBR
12. Bamboo Engineering Chevrolet Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T Pasquale di Sabatino* ITA
14. Team Aon Ford Ford Focus S2000 TC James Nash* GBR
15. ROAL Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Tom Coronel NED
16. ROAL Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Alberto Cerqui* ITA
18. Tuenti Racing Team SEAT SEAT León TDi Tiago Monteiro POR
20. Special Tune Racing SEAT SEAT León 1.6T WTCC Darryl O’Young* HKG
22. Special Tune Racing SEAT SEAT León TDi Tom Boardman* GBR
23. Team Aon Ford Ford Focus S2000 TC Tom Chilton GBR
24. Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320 TC Isaac Tutumlu* ESP
25. Proteam Racing BMW BMW 320 TC Mehdi Bennani* MOR
26. Wiechers-Sport BMW BMW 320 TC Stefano D’Aste* ITA
27. Zengõ Motorsport BMW BMW 320 TC Gábor Wéber* HUN
40. SUNRED Engineering SEAT SEAT León TDi Andrea Barlesi* BEL
74. Tuenti Racing Team SEAT SEAT León 1.6T WTCC Pepe Oriola* ESP
88. SUNRED Engineering SEAT SEAT León TDi Pepe Oriola* ESP

 * Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.

Facts, Stats & Predictions

Despite claiming a double-win at Monza, the Chevrolet camp is not going to talk up its prospects ahead of this weekend’s round at Valencia. While many would believe that the works cars would be the favourites heading into Spain, the Cruzes are carrying an additional 10kg of performance ballast, while main rivals BMW have lost 10kg of ballast, giving them a 40kg overall weight advantage over the Chevrolets.

BMW will have the biggest representation on the grid once again with nine 320 TCs in action, and several of its drivers are expected to be frontrunners on a circuit that has generally given an advantage to the rear-wheel-drive cars. Provided the teams and drivers don’t self-destruct (as was the case last year), then we could see the likes of Tom Coronel, Stefano D’Aste, Franz Engstler and Norbert Michelisz feature at the pointy end of the field.

Despite it being its home race, it’s difficult to predict quite how SEAT will fare. A lot of this will hinge on whether the outfit has been able to improve the reliability of its brand-new turbocharged engine. There’s little doubt that the new powerplant is mighty quick Gabriele Tarquini will again lead SEAT's assault on home soil (as evidenced by Gabriele Tarquini’s surprise pole at Monza), but it’s also fragile – all of the turbo runners had to undergo at least one engine change over the course of the Monza race weekend. If the engines can hold together, expect the four turbo runners – Tarquini, Darryl O’Young, local driver Pepe Oriola, and the ever-improving Aleksei Dudukalo – to be possible threats this weekend.

Ford had a tough baptism at Monza The new two-car Arena Motorsports Ford operation is not expected to feature at the front of the field, with this weekend being just the second that the team’s new Ford Focus S2000 turbos have raced in anger. The team has had some difficulty adapting its car to meet the championship’s new regulations – it needed dispensation to run a modified floor and suspension components at Monza – but despite this, the team remains positive that it will continue to improve.

As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Valencia!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.