The grid for next weekend’s round of the World Touring Car Championship at the Shanghai International Circuit continues to grow, with confirmation that five more drivers will be joining the field.
The highest-profile of these announcements is the long-overdue return of former WTCC race-winner Colin Turkington. The Northern Irishman last appeared on the WTCC grid at last year’s Chinese round at Tianma (at which he claimed a podium finish), itself a year after he won the second race at the 2010 Race of Japan at Okayama following the disqualification of the factory BMWs.
Turkington is being given use of the spare Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T belonging to the factory-supported RML squad, although his appearance will be run by the West Surrey Racing team, with financial support from long-time sponsor, Aviva-Cofco.
It will be the first time since 2006 that Turkington has race a front-wheel drive vehicle. In more recent years, he’s been almost exclusively behind the wheel of BMW 3-series machinery, having piloted a 320si model in the British, Scandinavian and World Touring Car Championship series’.
“It’s great to be back in the WTCC and I’m really excited to be driving at Shanghai’s F1 circuit,” Turkington said of the announcement. I haven’t raced since the WTCC event at Tianma last year, so it will probably take a while to get the rust out of the system.”
“We’re really pleased to be back in the WTCC with the support of Aviva-Cofco,” added WSR team principal Dick Bennets.
“It’s going to be a tough challenge for Colin and the team to learn a new car and a new track, but we’re all looking forward to it. We’ve obtained the car from RML and they have bent over backwards to help us get everything to Shanghai in time, so we can’t thank them enough.”
Meanwhile, French racing driver Hugo Valente will make his WTCC debut next weekend, having secured a one-off drive with the SUNRED Engineering stable to drive the ex-Tiago Monteiro SR León 1.6T that was driven by Hiroki Yoshimoto last weekend at Suzuka.
Valente, 20, is currently the championship leader in the French version of the SEAT León Supercópa championship, with the series’ final round taking place this weekend at Paul Ricard.
Valente will be part of a four-car operation fielded by SUNRED, which has expanded its line-up to include former WTCC regular Fredy Barth, alongside the team’s regular drivers, Pepe Oriola and Fernando Monje.
Barth, Oriola and Monje will drive SEAT Leóns equipped with the ORECA-developed SEAT 1.6-litre turbo engine.
The field will also have three normally-aspirated cars on the grid, with the Liqui Moly Engstler BMW team confirming that Liu Lic Ka will drive the 320si it has brought out for the final three Far East flyaway rounds.
Born in Hong Kong, Liu raced under the Macau flag. The 41-year-old has previously competed in the WTCC back in 2009, driving an Engstler BMW 320si to a 24th-placed finish in the first race at Macau (pictured right), but failing to take the start in the second race.
Hong Kong Touring Car S2000-class champion Eric Kwong Hoi Fung will make his WTCC debut in a normally-aspirated Chevrolet Cruze LT run by the Look Fong Racing Team.
The thirty-year-old is the reigning HTCC title holder, and his appearance will make the first time since 2010 that a normally-aspirated Cruze has been on the grid.
And lastly, Macau racer Leong Ian Veng will make his WTCC debut in an ex-JAS Motorsport Honda Accord Euro R run by the Song Veng Racing Team.
Leong is the current championship leader in the Macau Touring Car Series, and he will also race at the famous Guia Circuit, albeit in the CTM Macau Cup event.