The FIA World Touring Car Championship is facing a tough challenge for the future. The series is switching to a new engine at the same time as DTM is growing to be a strong competitor, attracting attention from BMW with new regulations. TouringCarTimes met up with WTCC promoter Marcello Lotti on the subject of the future.
TcT: The WTCC is at a real turning point, with the new rules coming into play next year. How has the changes to the rules been approached by the manufacturers?
“The manufacturers have reacted well to the new regulations. As we know, the new Chevrolet Cruze has already hit the track, while BMW has announced the development of the new 1.6 turbo engine. By the way, RML and Chevrolet have signed a deal for three more years, so this is a long-term project.
As for SEAT, all the diesel-powered cars will be transformed and equipped with the new engine. The only cars that might might still have the two liter engine at the first race next year will be the Chevrolets of Bamboo Engineering, they will use the Cruze. They should be able to use the 1.6 liter Chevrolet engine from the European events on.”
TcT: A hot subject ahead of each new season is potential new manufacturers. Volvo enters one car for next year, are you confident of an expansion of their program after 2011?
“Volvo has begun a long-term programme. Next year we will see a single C30 on the track, but the goal is to gain experience and then expand the program in the 2012-2014 period, with the new version of C30.”
While Volvo could be on the way in with a full program, BMW has cut back their efforts to just two factory cars and announced a full DTM program. Is this something that concerns you?
“To be honest, BMW’s announcement doesn’t get me worried for one simple reason: WTCC has never been the only works effort for BMW in motorsport. Over the years, BMW has taken part in Formula One as well as GT and yet they never abandoned WTCC.
Choosing DTM is understandable for a German manufacturer, but one has to consider that this is a series based mainly in Germany, where there are three German brands (including BMW) fighting for the title. Of course, they’re trying to make it “more European” and they will probably manage to do so but, as I said before, the strongest base is in Germany. Plus, the DTM cars are more oriented towards GT, rather than touring cars.
We are likely to know for sure in December, but I think BMW will still be involved in the WTCC next year. Their place is in touring cars.”
Another european touring car championship that is growing stronger is the Superstars Series. Considering that big teams like ROAL Ravaglia Motorsport has migrated to this series, are you considering Superstars as a threat?
“The Superstars is on a different concept compared to the WTCC. The cars can be built by the different teams, such as the Chevrolet Lumina and the Porsche Panamera. Our targets are so different from theirs that I do not see the Superstars Series as a competitor of the World Touring Car Championship, but more as a whole different series.”
Speaking of the european touring car market, the FIA ETCC has just ended after its first season with the new three-race format. Will there be interest for this series in the future?
“Definitely yes. The format works and next year will re-present a format of three events. Some are asking for four, but I think four would be too many. It is certainly not easy, but every sport is facing tough times in this period. Taking into consideration the economical environment we are in, I consider the European Touring Car Cup as a success.”