We’ve already enjoyed two action-packed weekends of racing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship, and after another panel-bending event around the streets of Marrakech, the circus heads northeast to the Slovak Republic to tackle the Slovakia Ring.
|2013 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF SLOVAKIA
|Date:||27-28 April 2013|
|Venue:||Slovakia Ring, 40km east of Bratislava, Slovak Republic|
|Race Lap Record:||2:14.508, Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:00-09:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 12:00-12:30|
|Qualifying Session 1||Sat 15:30-15:50|
|Qualifying Session 2||Sat 15:55-16:05|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 08:45-09:00|
|Race 1 (10 laps, 59km)||Sun 14:50-15:20|
|Race 2 (10 laps, 59km)||Sun 15:20-15:50|
|Past Winners:||Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León WTCC)||2012 (Race 1)|
|Rob Huff (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 2)|
The Automotodróm Slovakia Ring is in Orechová Potôň, Dunajská Streda District near Slovakia’s capital city, Bratislava.
Built in 2008-9, it is the country’s principal motor racing circuit, and it has since played host to rounds of the EuroBOSS championship, along with the FIA GT Championship.
One of the longest circuits on the calendar at 5.9 kilometres in length, the Slovakia Ring is a medium-speed circuit with a mix of largely constant-radius corners, a pair of wide 900-metre long straights and a couple of wicked blind crests and elevation changes.
Its switchback nature gives spectators great viewing opportunities from the circuit’s grandstands, and the event is guaranteed to be well-attended after last year’s great crowd figures at the inaugural WTCC round staged here.
Rewind to 2012
The Slovakia Ring was a late addition to the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship calendar, but its inclusion certainly disappoint the huge throng of motorsport fans who turned up for the series’ inaugural event at the Eastern European venue.
In the opening race, Gabriele Tarquini broke Chevrolet’s stranglehold of the top step of the podium by leading home a SEAT 1-2 ahead of LUKOIL Racing teammate Aleksei Dudukalo. The Italian claimed the lead after a rather forceful pass on Norbert Michelisz’s BMW, and the Hungarian’s woes were compounded when he was tipped into a spin by Yvan Muller just moments later. SEAT would have claimed a podium lockout, only for Pepe Oriola to suffer a puncture with a couple of laps to go, promoting Alain Menu into third place in his Chevrolet.
Rob Huff was one of several drivers to sustain damage in the incident-filled opening race, but his RML Chevrolet team worked miracles to repair his car and have it ready for Sunday’s closing race. He duly survived another action-packed race to lead home teammate Muller, who ultimately came out on top of an entertaining battle with Race 1 winner Tarquini.
The same 23-car field will line up on the grid for Sunday’s two 10-lap sprint races, although this weekend will mark the first in a series of compensation weight adjustments that will occur over the course of the season to try and ensure some level of party between the five manufacturers. You can check out our story by clicking here.
Here’s this weekend’s provisional entry list:
|1.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Robert Huff|
|3.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Gabriele Tarquini|
|5.||Zengõ Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC||Norbert Michelisz|
|6.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Franz Engstler*|
|7.||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*|
|9.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Alex MacDowall*|
|10.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||James Thompson|
|11.||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta||Mikhail Koslovskiy|
|12.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Yvan Muller|
|14.||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||James Nash*|
|15.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Tom Coronel|
|17.||NIKA Racing||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Michel Nykjær*|
|18.||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC||Tiago Monteiro|
|19.||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Fernando Monje*|
|22.||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Tom Boardman*|
|23.||RML Chevrolet||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T||Tom Chilton|
|25.||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC||Mehdi Bennani*|
|26.||PB Racing||BMW 320 TC||Stefano D’Aste*|
|37.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||René Münnich*|
|38.||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Marc Basseng|
|55.||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC||Darryl O’Young*|
|73.||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC||Fredy Barth*|
|74.||Tuenti Racing Team||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T||Pepe Oriola|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor. Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
The opening four races of the season have seen three different race winners spread across two different manufacturers, with Chevrolet and SEAT claiming the honours in Morocco after Yvan Muller’s clean sweep a fortnight earlier at Monza.
On form alone, the Chevrolet Cruze will again be the car to beat despite the additional penalty ballast its five cars will be carrying this weekend. Muller holds a comfortable lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, and he’ll need a poor weekend for the chasing gaggle of cars to close up.
Nevertheless, the Frenchman will need to keep a close eye on his mirrors if he’s to secure his first win at the circuit, particularly given the solid form shown by his four fellow Cruze runners.
Among the other manufacturers, you certainly can’t discount the Hondas and SEATs from the equation either. Both have shown flashes of speed so far, but lacked the consistency (and luck) to convert this into some major results – Pepe Oriola’s win in Morocco notwithstanding.
BMW will be looking for some serious improvement after two troubled opening events. The 320TC is still the heaviest in the field, and the Slovakia Ring’s constant-radius corners could hurt the rear-wheel-drive’s tyre wear.
And over at LADA, it will benefit from a reduction in its base weight and one can expect James Thompson to be right in the mix in his little Granta WTCC, assuming the team can get its baseline set-up sorted early on. Expect a surprise result from him this weekend.
Nonetheless, this promises to be a fascinating weekend of touring car action. As always, make sure you visit RichardsF1.com for all of the latest news and analysis from the Slovak Republic!