The FIA World Touring Car Championship closes out its 2014 season – for what is rumoured to be the last time – on the streets of Macau this weekend. With every championship crown having been wrapped up, it will purely be a battle of pride and bragging rights heading into the off-season.
|2014 FIA WTCC GUIA RACE OF MACAU
|Open Test Session||Thu 07:15-07:40|
|Free Practice Session 1||Thu 13:55-14:25|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 09:25-09:55|
|Race 1 (10 laps)||Sun 11:15-11:45|
|Race 2 (10 laps)||Sun 12:30-13:00|
|Race Lap Record||2:32.063 (2012)|
* All session times are quoted in China Standard Time (GMT +08:00 hrs)
Macau’s famous Guia street circuit will play host to the traditional season finale, with the championship being one of the support races for the prestigious Formula 3 Grand Prix.
The layout consists of several flat-out straights along the waterfront before the track heads inland and climbs up and down through the city’s narrow side streets. Many of the corners are completely blind, and the close confines of the track will punish the smallest mistake.
Trying to determine an effective set-up – that copes with both the long front straights and the twisty infield – is a huge challenge for drivers and teams, and it’s not unusual to see extreme set-ups being selected.
The Runners & Form Guide
José María López arrives for his first hit-out at Macau as the WTCC’s first ever rookie champion, having wrapped up the Drivers’ Championship crown last time out at Suzuka.
The Argentine driver has a 117-point margin over four-time champion and teammate Yvan Muller, who himself sits just 30 points clear of third-placed Sébastien Loeb. With a maximum 55 points up for grabs, the two Frenchmen cannot afford to be complacent at a circuit that will punish the tiniest mistake.
Beyond the top three battle in the Drivers’ Championship standings, there will be a close scrap among the chasing Honda runners, who have enjoyed a significant lift in performance thanks to several upgrades to the Civic WTCC racers. That’s netted the Japanese carmaker two wins in the last four races – one apiece for Mehdi Bennani and Gabriele Tarquini – and the close competition between the four Honda runners means just seven points cover Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Gabriele Tarquini.
Next up are the privateer Chevrolet runners, with four points separating ROAL Motorsport teammates Tom Chilton (who has enjoyed a strong end to his season that peaked with a win in Beijing) and Tom Coronel – the latter will be celebrating 25 years of racing with a special livery this weekend. Forty points adrift, but still mathematically in contention, is Gianni Morbidelli in the Münnich Motorsport entry.
A returning face to the field in one of Campos Racing’s two Chevrolets will be 2012 Yokohama Trophy runner-up Pepe Oriola, who replaces the injured Dušan Borković this weekend. The Spanish racer had been set to compete in the lower TC2T class, but will be keen to angle for a full-time return in front of his sponsors on his only racing outing of the year. Oriola gained notoriety last year by punting Tom Chilton and James Thompson into the barriers over the two crash-filled races.
The crew to watch out for this weekend will be the LADAs, particularly Rob Huff, who is the all-time race-winner here with six victories. While the little red Grantas are not expected to perform well here, Huff’s success here will put him in the mix for a possible top-ten qualifying result and potentially pole position for the reverse-grid Race 2.
Such are the overtaking challenges around here, a front row start for Sunday’s second 10-lap race could be a comfortable launchpad for victory.
Image via XPB Images