The FIA World Touring Car Championship rolls into the Slovak Republic for the first time this weekend, with nobody quite sure what to expect from the relatively unknown Slovakiaring circuit.
The largest motorsport event held at the 5.9km circuit at Orechová Potôň in the Slovak Republic near Bratislava to date was the fifth round of the 2011 FIA GT3 European Championship. This year, the circuit hosts the fourth round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship as well as the second round of the FIA European Touring Car Cup on the same weekend, and will later feature the FIA GT1 World Championship in June.
The race is a late stand-in for the Argentinean round, which was originally scheduled for the first week in July. The Slovak Republic will be the first of a WTCC double header in Eastern Europe, with the Hungaroring in nearby Budapest hosting the fifth round of the Championship just one week later.
“The Slovakia Ring is a new circuit, so we’re all heading into the weekend a bit unsure of what to expect,” said Chevrolet driver Rob Huff. “All going well I’ll be the quickest to adapt to the situation, hopefully picking up my first victory of the year in the process.”
Championship leader Yvan Muller also is looking forward to the uncertain element of going to a new circuit, with four wins in the first six races and the Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T not having been beaten yet, he goes in to the weekend in the strongest position.
“There is not much I can say, because, like everybody else, I have never been there and know nothing about the track,” said Muller. “In general, when we have to go to new tracks, I don’t get crazy trying to retrieve information. I prefer to see by myself once I get there. I must say I generally love to go to a new track and visit a new country, so I definitely look forward to it.”
The independent BMWs will all be running at maximum ballast after a string of fast laps set over the last three meetings showing they at least have a single lap pace comparable to the Chevrolet Cruzes. This will dampen Tom Coronel’s strong charge at ROAL Motorsport, with the Dutchman only just having dropped out of the top three in the standings after Marrakech.
SEAT’s focus will have been on consistency and reliability after their lead driver Gabriele Tarquini suffered a nightmare weekend in Morocco, first excluded from qualifying and then suffering with first an alternator problem in race one and then suspension problems putting him out before the start of race two. As a result, the Italian left the African continent without scoring a single point, and so dropped to sixth in the Championship behind countryman Stefano D’Aste.
Arena will be spurred on with their first points in Morocco, with strong performances seen from both drivers Tom Chilton and James Nash at the street circuit. The team and drivers will be on equal footing with the rest of the field at the Slovakiaring, with no one able to fall back on previous years’ set-up notes.
“Not only are we of course developing the new Ford Focus this season, but with it being our first WTCC campaign we’ve also had to contend with rolling up at tracks with no data from previous years,” said Arena driver James Nash. “We’re competing against others who’ve got several seasons’ worth of experience and technical knowledge to go by so time spent dialling in the car to the track is valuable refining time lost. At least in Slovakia we won’t be the only ones fishing for answers from the start of practice.”
Hungarian team Zengõ Motorsport will be getting ready for their home event the following week and are likely to draw a number of supporters across the Slovakia-Hungary border to cheer on Norbert Michelisz, who will again be joined by Gábor Wéber, returning to the WTCC after skipping the last round in Morocco in the team’s second BMW 320 TC.
FIA World Touring Car Championship – Race Of Slovakia Entry List
No – Driver – Nat – Team – Car
1 – Yvan Muller – FRA – Chevrolet – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
2 – Robert Huff – GBR – Chevrolet – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
3 – Gabriele Tarquini – ITA – Lukoil Racing Team – SEAT León WTCC
4 – Aleksei Dudukalo – RUS – Lukoil Racing Team – SEAT León WTCC
5 – Norbert Michelisz – HUN – Zengő Motorsport – BMW 320 TC
6 – Franz Engstler – GER – Liqui Moly Team Engstler – BMW 320 TC
7 – Charles Kaki Ng – HKG – Liqui Moly Team Engstler – BMW 320 TC
8 – Alain Menu – SUI – Chevrolet – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
11 – Alex MacDowall – GBR – Bamboo Engineering – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
12 – Pasquale Di Sabatino – ITA – Bamboo Engineering – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
14 – James Nash – GBR – Arena International Motorsport – Ford Focus S2000 TC
15 – Tom Coronel – NED – ROAL Motorsport – BMW 320 TC
16 – Alberto Cerqui – ITA – ROAL Motorsport – BMW 320 TC
18 – Tiago Monteiro – POR – SUNRED Engineering – SR León 1.6T
20 – Darryl O’Young – HKG – Special Tuning Racing – SEAT León WTCC
22 – Tom Boardman – GBR – Special Tuning Racing – SEAT León TDI
23 – Tom Chilton – GBR – Arena International Motorsport – Ford Focus S2000 TC
25 – Mehdi Bennani – MOR – Proteam Racing – BMW 320 TC
26 – Stefano D’Aste – ITA – Wiechers-Sport – BMW 320 TC
27 – Gábor Wéber – HUN – Zengő Motorsport – BMW 320 TC
40 – Andrea Barlesi – BEL – SUNRED Engineering – SR León 1.6T
74 – Pepe Oriola – SPN – SUNRED Engineering – SEAT León WTCC
Race Of Slovakia Weekend Timetable
Saturday 28th April
09:45 – 10:15 – Free Practice 1
12:30 – 13:00 – Free Practice 2
15:00 – 16:30 – Qualifying
Sunday 29th April
08:45 – 09:00 – Warm Up
14:20 – Race One (9 Laps)
15:35 – Race Two (9 Laps)
Race Of Slovakia Compensation Weights
Car – Weight – Breakdown
Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T – 1,200kg – 1,160 +40kg success ballast
BMW 320 TC – 1,200kg – 1,160 + 40kg success ballast
SEAT León WTCC – 1,170kg – 1,150 + 20kg success ballast
SR León 1.6T – 1,150kg – 1,150 – 20kg penalty ballast + 20kg ‘SUNRED’ ballast
SEAT León TDI – 1,130kg – 1,150 -20kg success ballast
Ford Focus S2000 TC – 1,130kg – 1,150 -20kg success ballast