The FIA World Touring Car Championship action gets underway once again this weekend, with the series making its first-ever visit to Austria’s Salzburgring circuit.
After a sensational weekend of racing at the Hungaroring, fans will be hoping for another unpredictable and exciting weekend of action at this fearsome high-speed circuit in the Alps.
As usual, RichardsF1.com will be reporting from the sidelines, and we’ll bring you all of the action and gossip from Salzburg. Let’s take a look at our mega race preview…
|2012 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF AUSTRIA
|Date:||18-20 May 2012|
|Race Lap Record:||1:57.552, Norbert Michelisz (BMW 320TC) – 2011|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 11:45-12:15|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 15:45-16:05|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 16:10-16:20|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 08:45-09:00|
|Race 1 (12 laps, 50km)||Sun 13:20-13:50|
|Race 2 (12 laps, 50km)||Sun 14:35-15:05|
Located just east of one of Austria’s largest cities, Salzburg, the 4.225-kilometre circuit lies in a narrow alpine valley.
On the surface, it has a fairly simple layout, but a fearsome reputation for its high speeds. It has two long straights joined by the tight Nockstein-Kehre hairpin at one end, and the fast Fahrerlagerkurve sweeper at the other end.
The start/finish straight ends with a tight right-left chicane, which could be the source of major drama at the start of Sunday’s two races.
Despite this being the first time that the World Touring Car Championship has raced here, the circuit is no stranger to tin-top racing, having hosted rounds of the German ADAC Procar Series, DPM, DTC and STW championships, as well as playing host to a round of the FIA European Touring Car Cup last year, which will again be a feature event this weekend.
A 21-car field will attack the fast straights and sweeps at the Salzburgring this weekend, with the field trimmed by one car – that being James Thompson’s LADA Granta, with the TMS team electing to perform a major test of its new car ahead of its second and final appearance of 2012 at the Race of Portugal in two weeks time.
A single Proteam Racing BMW will be in the field once again, with the Italian outfit fielding Hungary podium finisher Mehdi Bennani in its sole entry, following the sidden departure of Isaac Tutumlu in the days leading up to the previous round at Hungary.
2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship Entry List (Race of Hungary):
|1.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|2.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Lukoil Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Gabriele Tarquini|
|4.||Lukoil Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Aleksei Dudukalo*|
|5.||Zengõ Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Norbert Michelisz*|
|6.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler*|
|7.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*|
|8.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alain Menu|
|11.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alex MacDowell*|
|12.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Pasquale di Sabatino*|
|14.||Team Aon||Ford Focus S2000 TC||James Nash|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|16.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Alberto Cerqui*|
|18.||Tuenti Racing Team||SR León 1.6T||Tiago Monteiro|
|20.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC||Darryl O’Young*|
|22.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León TDi||Tom Boardman*|
|23.||Team Aon||Ford Focus S2000 TC||Tom Chilton|
|25.||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani*|
|26.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste*|
|27.||Zengõ Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Gábor Wéber*|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC||Pepe Oriola*|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
The second of four new circuits to grace this year’s championship calendar, this is one circuit that a few drivers can at least boast some knowledge of.
Championship leader Yvan Muller last raced here fifteen years ago, while three other drivers have rather more recent experience: Franz Engstler competed here in 2008, whilst Mehdi Bennani and SUNRED Engineering’s Pepe Oriola raced here last year in the FIA European Touring Car Cup, with Oriola winning the second race on his way to second in the 2011 ETCC drivers’ standings.
This is a track familiar to Chevrolet’s Swedish racing arm, Nika Racing, which competed here last year with Michel Nykjaer. Despite it relative lack of familiarity with the circuit, one can again expect the three blue cars to be at the sharp end of the field all weekend.
Whatever happens coming out of this weekend, a Chevrolet driver will still be leading the championship standings when the field packs up and heads south-west to Portugal for the following championship round, such as been the works team’s dominance of the 2012 championship, winning all but two of the ten races held so far.
Nonetheless, the points spread between the RML team’s three drivers is extremely tight, with just 30 points covering points’ leader Yvan Muller, second-placed Alain Menu and last year’s championship runner-up Robert Huff.
But the trio will need to keep a close eye on their mirrors after the upturn in performance by rival outfits SEAT and BMW, who have shown plenty of promise at recent events.
Gabriele Tarquini and Pepe Oriola were again SEAT’s pace-setters, while Tiago Monteiro showed plenty of promise after an incident-free weekend in the older-spec SUNRED León.
BMW’s charge will again be led by Tom Coronel (ROAL Motorsport) and Norbert Michelisz (Zengő Motorsport), with the latter no doubt keen to build on the momentum of his outstanding Race 2 win on home soil just two weeks ago.
This promises to be another fascinating instalment of World Touring Car Championship action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from Salzburg!