The second leg of the FIA World Touring Car Cup’s four events in Asia takes place this weekend at Suzuka, where the world’s best front-wheel-drive touring car racers will share double-billing with the championship-deciding Super Formula race.
|Suzuka East Course|
|Location||Suzuka, Japan||Circuit Length||2.243 km / 1.394 mi|
|Opened||1962||First WTCR Event||2018 (on Grand Prix layout)|
|Direction||Clockwise||Race Lap Record||To be established|
Used for Japan’s WTCC events between 2011 and 2013, the 2.243-kilometre East Course layout features the legendary First Turn – a classic downhill right-hander. It also includes the Esses sweeps and a section of the Dunlop Corner before it swings sharp right onto the iconic start/finish straight.
Using the East Course respects the FIA’s safety and circuit homologation requirements, which don’t allow urethane safety barriers. Because there is not enough time to remove and reinstall these barriers that are in place on the Full Course before and after WTCR Race of Japan the East Course is being used instead.
Last year’s instalment on the full Grand Prix layout proved to be an exciting affair, however with the shorter East Course’s general lack of passing opportunities it will make qualifying all the more crucial.
The 2019 Event
|2019 FIA WTCR presented by Oscaro – JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan|
|Event Dates||25-27 October 2019||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 08:30-09:15|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 10:15-10:45||Race 1 Qualifying||Fri 13:00-13:30|
|Race 2 & 3 Qualifying||Fri 15:30-16:25||Race 1 (24 laps)||Sat 15:05-15:35|
|Race 2 (24 laps)||Sun 10:00-10:30||Race 3 (28 laps)||Sun 11:30-12:00|
Session times quoted in Japan Standard Time (UTC/GMT + 9:00)
Rewind to 2018
Gabriele Tarquini set up a WTCR title showdown in Macau with a fifth win of 2018 in the third and final race at Suzuka. The Hyundai-powered BRC Racing Team driver inherited the race lead when on-the-road winner Kevin Ceccon was penalised five seconds for failing to properly line up his Team Mulsanne Alfa Romeo in his grid slot. The Race 1 winner pushed as hard as he could once notice of the penalty had been served, but his time penalty saw him demoted to the final step of the podium behind Tarquini and Aurélien Comte (DG Sport Compétition Peugeot).
Victory in the reversed-grid Race 2 went to Rob Huff (Sébastien Loeb Racing Volkwagen) after he successfully out-dragged pole-sitter Pepe Oriola (Campos Racing Cupra) off the line and successfully resisted race-long pressure from the Spanish driver. Tarquini’s teammate Norbert Michelisz completed the podium in third.
The opening race of the weekend saw Kevin Ceccon claim a breakthrough maiden WTCR victory for himself and Team Mulsanne. The Italian – who had made his touring car debut earlier in the year – managed to overtake early race-leader Comte with a deft pass into the chicane after slipstreaming the Peugeot driver through 130R. YMR Hyundai driver Yvan Muller completed the podium.
While he didn’t set either the timesheets or the race classification results alight, the most notable performance of the weekend came from Tiago Monteiro. The Portuguese was back in action 415 days after suffering serious head and neck injuries in a testing crash. Making his first appearance for Boutsen Ginion Racing Honda, the ex-F1 driver was given an emotional guard of honour by his fellow drivers when he left the pit lane for the first time in FP1.
The Form Guide
The 2019 championship season is fast-approaching its business end where a slip-up could prove disastrous for any of the main title protagonists.
It has been a truly competitive season where no one driver has been able to launch a breakaway campaign, and with three rounds to go just 15 points covers the top-three in the championship standings: Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Team Hyundai), Esteban Guerrieri (Münnich Motorsport Honda) and Yvan Muller (Cyan Racing Lynk & Co).
With the WTCR field sharing billing with the Super Formula and TCR Japan championships, a packed schedule will see practice and qualifying all take place on Friday, which is forecast to be rain-affected.
The short Suzuka East Course layout will lead to rather processional racing, meaning that getting a good grid slot will be vital. With a tight turnaround time between Races 2 and 3 on Sunday morning, those will good starting positions for Race 3 will be mired in the midfield on the reversed-grid Race 2. A mistake or damage could prove extremely costly.
Compensation Weight Adjustments
Four of the grid’s seven car models – the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR, Cupra TCR, Hyundai i30 N TCR and Lynk & Co 03 TCR – will carry extra compensation weight for this weekend’s Race of Japan round following the latest parity adjustments.
Following their competitive showing at the preceding Race of China, the Alfa Romeos will gain the most ballast with an extra 40kg, while the Cupras entered by PWR Racing and Comtoyou Racing will carry an additional 20kg. An extra 10kg will be fitted to the Hyundai i30 N TCR and Lynk & Co 03 TCR entries.
Two car models will lose compensation weight, with the four Sébastien Loeb Racing run Volkswagen Golf GTI TCRs losing 20kg and the Audi RS 3 LMS runners from Leopard Racing and Comtoyou Racing shedding 10kg.
|2019 FIA WTCR Race of Japan – Balance of Performance|
|Manufacturer – Model||Power||Ride Ht||Comp Wt||BoP Wt||Total Weight|
|Lynk & Co 03 TCR||97.5%||80mm||50kg||40kg||1,355kg|
|Honda Civic Type R FK8 TCR||100.0%||80mm||60kg||20kg||1,345kg|
|Hyundai i30 N TCR||97.5%||90mm||60kg||20kg||1,345kg|
|Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR||100.0%||70mm||40kg||-40kg||1,265kg|
|Cupra León TCR||100.0%||70mm||40kg||-40kg||1,265kg|
|Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce||100.0%||80mm||40kg||-40kg||1,265kg|
|Audi RS 3 LMS||100.0%||70mm||20kg||-30kg||1,255kg|
Images via FIA WTCR