The FIA World Touring Car Championship makes its second ever appearance in mainland China this weekend, and its first at the Shanghai International Circuit as the title fight between the three Chevrolet drivers draws closer to its conclusion.
There is a remote chance for Yvan Muller to secure his fourth World title this weekend, but as he’s tied on points with team-mate Rob Huff, the Frenchman would need to take pole position and win both races (starting from tenth for race two), with Huff not scoring a single point (outside the top five in qualifying and the top ten in both races) in order to do so. In affect, it’s almost certain that the title will go down to the wire in two weeks time at Macau.
Alain Menu is just 38 points behind in the championship and so can also remain in contention as long he doesn’t drop any further than 55 points behind whichever Chevrolet driver leads the standings after Shanghai, which could of course be the Swiss driver himself if disaster were to strike his two team-mates.
“It will be another new circuit for everybody,” said Muller. “On paper, Shanghai is bigger and
faster than Suzuka, so overtaking should be much easier and this should give us some lively
races,” he added, as Suzuka proved to be a struggle for many to overtake.
“The situation in the championship is really exciting. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a close
fight in the WTCC before. My objective is to collect as many points as possible. It would be
great to go into the last race at Macau with a points advantage – this would make things
easier for me.”
Team-mate and title rival Rob Huff added:
“It’s great to go to Shanghai and have the privilege to race on the F1 track. I’m really anxious
to get there. I think we’ll have closely-fought races as the track seems to allow for that. It will
be important to qualify well and my first objective is to improve my grid position. My last three
sessions did not go that well and I qualified third among the three Cruzes, so my first goal is
to end up on the front row.”
Two-time BTCC champion Alain Menu is aiming to continue to cut into his two team-mates points lead. The Swiss driver was strong at the Tianma circuit last year and in the flyaway events, before trouble struck at Macau.
“I was very happy to reduce the points gap at Suzuka, and that’s exactly what I aim to do in
China,” said Menu. “I have no choice if I want to remain in contention for the title, I have to cut the gap by another 10 to 12 points. If so, I think I still have a chance in Macau, where traditionally
anything can happen.”
Shanghai will see the second appearance of the new Honda Civic WTCC driven by Tiago Monteiro. Monteiro scored points first time out in both races at Suzuka, and the Honda Racing Team JAS squad will be aiming to further improve the car ahead of its first full season in 2013.
The Shanghai race will feature the highest number of entries seen so far this year, with two popular names returning to the Championship. Swiss-driver Fredy Barth will make his first WTCC appearance since Macau last year, driving for SUNRED Engineering in a SEAT León, equipped with the latest ORECA-built 1.6 turbo engine. Barth has been driving for Emil Frey Racing in the Blancpain Endurance Series in the meantime, whilst Colin Turkington will be making his first appearance on the professional racing scene since Tianma’s WTCC race last year, a race where he threatened Alain Menu for the victory in the Team Aviva-Cofco/West Surrey Racing-run BMW 320 TC.
This year, Team Avica-Cofco make what’s becoming their annual appearance in the WTCC, but with no BMWs available, they will instead be running the same championship leading Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T as the works Chevrolet team, RML’s spare car in fact, which will make it six Chevrolet Cruze 1.6Ts on the grid.
There will also be another three normally aspirated Chevrolets added to the field, with Hong Kong driver Eric Kwong and Macanese Ng Kin Veng driving Cruze LTs for the Look Fong Racing Team and China Dragon Racing teams respectively. Another Macau resident, Filipe de Souza, will also be behind a Lacetti, as he was in Macau last year, though this time run by China Dragon.
20-year-old Frenchman Hugo Valente will take the wheel of the SR León 1.6T driven by Tiago Monteiro and Hiroki Yoshimoto earlier in the season to make his WTCC debut, whilst Engstler Motorsport will enter a BMW 320si for Alex Liu Lic Ka.
The independents’ battle also hots up this weekend with SUNRED’s Pepe Oriola having closed up to Zengõ Motorsport’s Norbert Michelisz in Japan. With double points available at the season finale at Macau in two weeks’ time, it’s all to play for.
FIA World Touring Car Championship – Race Of China Entry List
No – Driver – 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 – Zengõ 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
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 – Honda Racing Team JAS – Honda Civic Super 2000 TC
20 – Darryl O’Young* – HKG – Bamboo Engineering – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
22 – Tom Boardman* – GBR – Special Tuning Racing – SEAT León WTCC
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
32 – Colin Turkington – GBR – Team Aviva-Cofco – Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
50 – Filipe de Souza* – MAC – China Dragon Racing – Chevrolet Lacetti
51 – Ng Kin Veng* – MAC – China Dragon Racing – Chevrolet Cruze LT
53 – Kelvin Leong Ian Veng* – MAC – Song Veng Racing Team – Honda Accord Euro R
54 – Eric Kwong* – HKG – Look Fong Racing Team – Chevrolet Cruze LT
60 – Hugo Valente* – FRA – SUNRED Engineering – SR León 1.6T
73 – Fredy Barth* – SWI – SUNRED Engineering – SEAT León WTCC
74 – Pepe Oriola* – SPN – SUNRED Engineering – SEAT León WTCC
76 – Alex Liu Lic Ka* – JPN – Liqui Moly Team Engstler – BMW 320si
88 – Fernando Monje* – SPN – SUNRED Engineering – SEAT León WTCC
* Eligible for Yokohama Independents’ Trophy
WTCC Race of China Timetable
Friday 2nd November
13:30 – 14:00 – Testing (FP0)
Saturday 3rd November
09:20 – 09:50 – Free Practice 1
11:20 – 11:50 – Free Practice 2
15:30 – 16:05 – Qualifying
Sunday 4th November
09:00 – 09:15 – Warm Up
14:50 – Race One (13 Laps)
16:05 – Race Two (13 Laps)
* All times CST (GMT -8 Hours, CET -7 Hours)
WTCC Race of China Compensation Weights
Car – Weight – Breakdown
Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T – 1,200kg – 1,160 +40kg compensation weight
SEAT León WTCC – 1,180kg – 1,150 +30kg compensation weight
BMW 320si – 1,170kg – 1,170 base weight
Honda Civic Super 2000 TC – 1,150kg – 1,150 base weight
Honda Accord Euro R – 1,150kg – 1,150 base weight
Chevrolet Cruze LT – 1,150kg – 1,150 base weight
Chevrolet Lacetti – 1,150kg – 1,150 base weight
SR León 1.6T – 1,150kg +20kg penalty ballast -20kg compensation
BMW 320 TC – 1,140kg – 1,160 -20kg compensation weight
Ford Focus S2000 TC - 1,130kg – 1,150 -20kg compensation weight