The FIA World Touring Car Championship stages the first of two rounds of the season on Chinese soil, kicking off proceedings this weekend with its inaugural visit to Beijing’s Goldenport Park circuit.
The final third of the season is now upon us, and with the entire season having been dominated by the Citroëns, many eyes will be fixed on the latest installment in the championship battle between teammates José María López and four-time champion Yvan Muller.
|2014 FIA WTCC RACE OF BEIJING
||Date||4-5 October 2014|
|Open Test Session||Sat 08:20-08:50|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 12:20-12:50|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 17:20-17:50|
|Race 1 (26 laps)||Sun 14:50-15:20|
|Race 2 (26 laps)||Sun 15:50-16:20|
|Race Lap Record||N/A|
* All session times are quoted in China Standard Time (GMT +08:00 hrs)
With just two meetings in the last four months, the final four Asian rounds run in rapid succession, with Beijing and Shanghai running on successive weekends ahead of the penultimate round at Suzuka before the end of the month. November will see the traditional curtain-closer on the streets of Macau.
Let’s not look too far forward, however, as this weekend’s maiden visit to Beijing will present its own challenges for the field. At just 2.3 kilometres in length, the Goldenport Park Circuit is easily the shortest track the series visits this year, and with twelve turns and barely any straights to speak of, it’s more like an overgrown karting track than a pukka circuit suitable for the world’s best touring cars.
Given it barely possesses any straights or quick corners, the focus will be on the teams that can get good mechanical grip through the multitude of low-speed corners. That might see a compression in the field, meaning Citroën’s traditional advantage could well be negated and the likes of LADA and the RML Chevrolets could spring their own surprises.
The Runners & Form Guide
It seems like an eternity since the last hit-out at Argentina’s Termas de Río Hondo circuit, López dominated proceedings and extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings with a perfect weekend (pole position and both race wins) to claim the maximum 55 points on offer and extend his lead over Muller to 60 points. With a maximum 220 points on offer, there’s still plenty to play for, and a slip for either driver could really change the face of the championship battle.
While the utterly dominant C-Elysée WTCCs have been freighted from South America to Asia, their rivals have been working hard to close the gap. The RML-designed Chevrolets have received a host of upgraded parts and ran some track testing in Spain, while the Hondas also clocked up some testing miles to appraise upgrades to their Mugen-built engines.
In an unusual format change, qualifying and both races will be run on Sunday, while Friday’s test session has been bumped to Saturday. This is to allow for delays in getting the teams’ cars and infrastructure shipped across from Argentina.
Aside from Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua getting his third outing of the season in Citroën’s fourth car, the TC1 class field remains unchanged for this round. The four-car TC2T class field sees two new faces, with Michael Soong getting a one-off hit-out in Campos Racing’s second SEAT León WTCC. Macau-based racer Felipe de Souza also has his first outing of the season in the second Liqui Moly Engstler BMW.
Images via FIA WTCC Media