The FIA World Touring Car Championship heads to Suzuka this weekend for the first of three flyaway races in the Far East that will serve to bring the 2013 season to a close.
With Honda having already won this year’s manufacturers’ title, the stage is now set for Yvan Muller, who – barring an atrocious weekend – will secure a record-breaking fourth drivers’ title.
|2013 WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP RACE OF JAPAN
|Date:||20-22 September 2013|
|Venue:||Suzuka East Circuit, Suzuka, Japan|
|Race Lap Record:||0:53.885, Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T) – 2012|
|Event Schedule:||Open Test Session||Fri 13:30-14:00|
|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 08:50-09:05|
|Race 1 (26 laps, 58km)||Sun 14:35-15:05|
|Race 2 (26 laps, 58km)||Sun 15:35-1635|
|Past Winners:||Alain Menu (RML Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2012 (Race 1)|
|Stefano D’Aste (Wiechers-Sport BMW 320TC)||2012 (Race 2)|
|Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T)||2011 (Race 1)|
|Tom Coronel (ROAL Motorsport BMW 320TC)||2011 (Race 2)|
|Rob Huff (RML Chevrolet LT)||2010 (Race 1)*|
|Colin Turkington (WSR BMW 320si)||2010 (Race 2)*|
|Andy Priaulx (RBM BMW 320si)||2009 (Race 1)*|
|Augusto Farfus (RBM BMW 320si)||2009 (Race 2)*|
|Richard Rydell (SEAT Sport León TDi)||2008 (Race 1)*|
|Tom Coronel (SUNRED Racing SEAT León TFSI)||2008 (Race 2)*|
* Denotes event held at TI Aida Circuit, Okayama
The FIA World Touring Car Championship heads east this weekend to the Suzuka International Circuit, which will play host to the first of three rounds in the Far East that make up the final leg of the 2012 season.
This will be the event’s third time running at the Suzuka East Circuit after WTCC organisers announced a switch in venue for the Race of Japan, moving it from its traditional home at the TI Aida Circuit in Okayama to the more accessible Suzuka circuit. Sadly for fans, the race would be run on a much shorter ‘East Circuit’ version of the iconic Grand Prix circuit.
The reason is one of pure practicality: using the full 5.8-kilometre version of the circuit would limit each race to just nine laps apiece, and a lap-time would be well over 2 minutes a pop.
Instead, fans are given two races of 26 laps apiece on the shortened configuration, running around the opening third of the normal layout, before cutting back onto the final corner via an access road that starts near the Dunlop left-hander.
With this weekend’s being the first of three rounds counting towards the inaugural WTCC Asia Trophy, a host of local-region drivers have signed up for the final Far East flyaway rounds.
No less than five drivers from Macau have signed on across three privateer teams (all entering normally-aspirated Super 2000-specification cars).
Two of the grid’s more-seasoned outfits are fielding extra vehicles for guest drivers, with the works Honda outfit bringing out another Civic WTCC for Takuya Izawa, while the Liqui Moly Engstler team has freighted an extra BMW for regular guest driver Henry Ho.
The Engstler team will be without the services of team owner/driver Franz Engstler, who has been struck down by an as-yet undisclosed illness. His seat will be taken over by Masaki Kano, who has driven for the team in previous seasons.
The grid will also feature two more Japanese drivers: Yukinori Taniguchi makes a one-off return for the Weichers-Sport BMW team, while former open-wheel racer Hiroki Yoshimoto will take over the NIKA Racing Chevrolet seat previously held by Michel Nykjær.
One of Campos Racing’s regular driver, Hugo Valente, won’t be on the grid this weekend, with his SEAT León WTCC to be taken over by as yet-unnamed driver.
Here’s this weekend’s provisional entry list:
|1.||Robert Huff||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|3.||Gabriele Tarquini||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC|
|5.||Norbert Michelisz||Zengõ Motorsport||Honda Civic WTCC|
|7.||Charles Ka-Ki Ng*||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC|
|8.||Mikhail Koslovskiy||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta|
|9.||Alex MacDowall*||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|10.||James Thompson||LADA Sport Lukoil||LADA Granta|
|12.||Yvan Muller||RML||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|14.||James Nash*||Bamboo Engineering||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|15.||Tom Coronel||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC|
|18.||Tiago Monteiro||Castrol Honda WTCC Team||Honda Civic WTCC|
|19.||Fernando Monje*||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|22.||Tom Boardman*||Special Tune Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|23.||Tom Chilton||RML||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|25.||Mehdi Bennani*||Proteam Racing||BMW 320 TC|
|26.||Stefano D’Aste*||PB Racing||BMW 320 TC|
|37.||René Münnich*||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|38.||Marc Basseng||Münnich Motorsport||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|45.||TBA||Campos Racing||SEAT León WTCC 1.6T|
|55.||Darryl O’Young*||ROAL Motorsport||BMW 320 TC|
|60.||Filipe de Souza*^||China Dragon Racing||Chevrolet Cruze LT|
|61.||Ng Kin Veng*^||China Dragon Racing||Chevrolet Cruze LT|
|66.||Jerónimo Badaraco*^||Son Veng Racing Team||Chevrolet Cruze LT|
|67.||Hiroki Yoshimoto*^||NIKA Racing||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|68.||Masaki Kano*^||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320 TC|
|74.||Pepe Oriola||Tuenti Racing Team||Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T|
|73.||Yukinori Taniguchi*^||Wiechers-Sport||BMW 320 TC|
|77.||Mak Ka Lok*^||RPM Racing||BMW 320si|
|88.||Henry Ho Wai Kun*^||Liqui Moly Team Engstler||BMW 320si|
|99.||Takuya Izawa^||Honda Racing Team JAS||Honda Civic WTCC|
* Denotes Yokohama Independent Trophy competitor.
^ Denotes EuroSport Asia Trophy competitor
Entry list is subject to final FIA confirmation.
Facts, Stats & Predictions
Championship favourite Yvan Muller went into the preceding round at Sonoma with an outside chance of wrapping up a fourth Drivers’ Championship title before the field headed across the Pacific to Japan.
That didn’t quite happen, but it will take a miracle to stop the Frenchman from wrapping it all up this weekend. Following Michel Nykjær’s ousting from the NIKA Racing team, that leaves Gabriele Tarquini as Muller’s sole championship rival, but the veteran Italian would have to outscore Muller by over 35 points in order to take the title fight to the following round in Shanghai.
But Tarquini will have a serious task in front of him. With Honda showing terrific pace last time out in California, that has seen the performance ballast increased on all four Honda Civic entries, which will take them to a mere 20kg less than the weigh the Chevrolet Cruze 1.6Ts have to carry.
The remaining turbo runners with BMW, LADA or SEAT badges will run at their respective minimum base weights, which will very much play into the favour of outgoing champion Rob Huff and 2011 race-winner Tom Coronel, who always performs well in Japan.
This again 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 Suzuka!