After a lengthy mid-season break, the FIA World Touring Car Championship season resumes for the first of four flyaway rounds in Asia and the Middle East, kicking off with the series’ inaugural visit to Japan’s Twin Ring Motegi.
|2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship JVC Kenwood Race of Japan|
|Date||11-13 September 2015||Lap Length||4.800km|
|Open Test Session||Fri 12:30-13:00||Free Practice Session 1||Sat 09:30-10:00|
|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||Qualifying Session 3||Sat 16:10-16:20|
|Race 1 (13 laps)||Sun 14:15-14:45||Race 2 (13 laps)||Sun 15:25-15:55|
Session times quoted in Japan Standard Time (GMT + 09:00)
Located 145 kilometres north of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, the Twin Ring Motegi derives its name from having two race tracks: a 2.493-mile speedway oval and a 4.8-kilometre fourteen-turned road course.
The track was built in 1997 by Honda as part of the carmaker’s efforts to bring American open-wheel racing to Japan. The CART championship staged rounds there between 1998-2002 before the Indy Racing League took over headline billing in 2003 and it remained a staple on the IndyCar Series’ calendar until 2011. The final event was the only one run on the road course configuration after the oval suffered damage during the devastating Tōhoku earthquake.
The oval and road course share the same grandstand and pit garage complexes, making it impossible for both circuits to be used simultaneously.
The road course is a rather stop-start straight-hairpin affair and, surprisingly for Japanese circuits, features little in the way of elevation change. The layout the World Touring Car Championship field will use is identical to that raced on by the MotoGP championships.
The Form Guide
The FIA WTCC field has had a break of almost three months since the action-packed pair of races in Vila Real, and this weekend’s visit to Japan will mark a rapid run of four flyaway rounds that will see China, Thailand and Qatar close out the 2015 season.
This weekend’s grid has been trimmed to 17 cars with the news that the fourth Honda Civic in the field, fielded by NIKA Racing, will be missing in action. The one-car Swedish team elected to skip the event after delays conducting repairs to its car – caused by a heavy crash for Argentine driver Néstor Girolami – meant it missed the deadline to get its equipment on the shipping containers to the Far East.
“The crash in Portugal meant we simply have no option. We continue to work flat out back at base in Sweden and are already eager to return to the grid in China and to complete the rest of the 2015 FIA WTCC campaign in the best way possible,” team principal Nicklas Karlsson said.
The field will have only one driver change, with French driver Nicolas Lapierre making his touring car debut for the LADA factory team, replacing Dutch racer Jaap van Lagen.
Reduced compensation weights for the Honda, LADA and RML Chevrolet runners might help close the gap to the all-conquering Citroëns, although it is expected that the French factory team will once again dominate proceedings this weekend as the championship battle between teammates José María López and Yvan Muller gets set to resume.
Many eyes will be on the performance of the Hondas at the carmaker’s home track. Series veteran Gabriele Tarquini led a Civic 1-2 ahead of Independent Trophy driver Norbert Michelisz in Friday’s opening test session, which could bode well for a closer battle at the front of the pack.
Images via Citroën Communication