Several battles to be settled during the WTCC’s Qatar finale
The drivers’ championship may have been settled, but during the first ever night race for the World Touring Car Championship, which takes place on Friday at the Losail circuit in Qatar, there are many other fights to be sorted.
López and Citroën have both won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles respectively, but both the independents’ trophies are yet to be decided, while the fight for second in the championship between French stars Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller, as Loeb takes part in perhaps his last WTCC race will be the main focus.
Loeb vs. Muller for second overall
After winning last time out in Buriram, and with Yvan Muller having a weekend to forget being caught up in two first lap crashes, Loeb now leads the four-time champion by five points going to the circuit where Muller has no advance knowledge.
“I haven’t often found myself fighting to be World Championship runner-up, but if I were to achieve it, it would give me something to show for all the work I have put in over the past two seasons,” said Loeb.
“This year, I won my first pole position, I have won four races and I’m now second in the overall standings. I’ll be looking to hold on to that position, which would also be a fitting reward for my team of engineers and mechanics. It would be a nice way to round off my 15th season with Citroën.”
Team-mate Yvan Muller’s approach to the race is a little more aligned to the saying of ‘second place is the first loser’, but the 46-year-old, who returns to Citroën for the final season next year, is hoping to add to his overall victory tally during the weekend.
“Once you know you can’t win, whether you finish second or third is of limited importance,” said Muller. “But I really want to end the season on a good note by trying to win one of the two races. I was frustrated by the Buriram weekend, where I didn’t finish a single lap in either race after getting involved in collisions. Finishing the season on a positive note would be the best way of beginning my preparations for 2016.”
The battle for best of the Hondas
After losing his Race 2 win in Buriram due to a technical infringement, Tiago Monteiro finds himself the third best placed of the full-time Honda drivers in the championship, but is just one point behind the privateer Zengő Honda of Norbert Michelisz in the drivers’ standings, making the fight between the two drivers, who are also rumoured to be battling it out for contention for a factory Honda drive next year as well, all the more intense.
Gabriele Tarquini is 19 points further up the road, which means it’ll require a very strong weekend from either Michelisz and Monteiro with a bit of bad luck for the 53-year-old Italian for his fifth place in the standings to be threatened, but he has a record of his own to chase…
End of a winning streak?
Gabriele Tarquini is one of only three drivers to have competed in every season of the WTCC. And of those three drivers, he is the only one to have won a race in every year, until now.
The Italian, who has battled at the front of the grid with the Citroëns for victories in recent races as the pace of the Honda Civic has improved, has had a strong season, but a race two victory, even through the reversed grid, has eluded him so far, and he has just two opportunities left to keep that record alive.
Not quite as impressive as Tarquini’s record, 2012 champion Rob Huff nonetheless has a similar personal score to look after. Huff failed to win any races in 2005 in the undeveloped Chevrolet Lacetti, but has won a race in every season since, even against the odds, taking two wins in 2013 in the ageing SEAT León WTCC, and another two last year with the uncompetitive Lada Granta.
Although this year’s Lada Vesta is a significant upgrade on the Granta, the opportunities to win races have so far escaped the 35-year-old Brit. A Macau finale would have been his best shot, and last week he competed in the event in any case and took a record eighth win in the Guia Race, but that doesn’t count towards his WTCC record.
Close independents’ titles
The independents’ trophy is between two teams and two drivers this weekend. In the drivers’ category, Norbert Michelisz could win his second title, first winning in 2012, but after a troubled weekend in Thailand he’s only seven points ahead of Morocco’s Mehdi Bennani in the privateer Citroën, with 23 to play for.
The teams’ trophy is also undecided, but ROAL Motorsport sit comfortably 16 points ahead of Campos Racing, with 36 on offer over the weekend, with the Spanish team requiring a strong result from their three drivers, Hugo Valente, John Filippi and newcomer Nasser Al-Attiyah over ROAL’s Tom Coronel and Tom Chilton to close the gap.
Best of the Chevrolets
Another battle to watch is the fight between the two Chevrolet drivers of Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente. After a strong weekend in Thailand, Chilton has overhauled the gap to the young Frenchman and heads to Qatar one point ahead in the standings. Chilton is also seven points behind Lada’s Rob Huff and therefore could gain eighth overall and the honour or “Best placed Brit” with a good weekend, or wind up outside of the top ten and behind both Valente and Mehdi Bennani if things go wrong.
All practice takes place on Thursday 26th November, with qualifying and the races taking place on the same day for the second race in succession, but for the first time on a Friday as the WTCC visits Qatar for the first time, and at night.
FIA WTCC Qatar – Entry List
No – Driver – Nat – Team – Car
2 – Gabriele Tarquini – ITA – Honda Racing Team JAS – Honda Civic WTCC
3 – Tom Chilton* – GBR – ROAL Motorsport – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
4 – Tom Coronel* – NED – ROAL Motorsport – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
5 – Norbert Michelisz* – HUN – Zengő Motorsport – Honda Civic WTCC
7 – Hugo Valente* – FRA – Campos Racing – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
9 – Sébastien Loeb – FRA – Citroën Total WTCC – Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
10 – Nicky Catsburg – NED – Lada Sport Rosneft – Lada Vesta WTCC
11 – Gregoire Demoustier* – FRA – Craft-Bamboo – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
12 – Rob Huff – GBR – Lada Sport Rosneft – Lada Vesta WTCC
18 – Tiago Monteiro – POR – Honda Racing Team JAS – Honda Civic WTCC
25 – Mehdi Bennani* – MOR – Sébastien Loeb Racing – Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
26 – Stefano D’Aste* – ITA – Münnich Motorsport – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
27 – John Filippi* – FRA – Campos Racing – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
33 – Ma Qing Hua – CHN – Citroën Total WTCC – Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
37 – José María López – ARG – Citroën Total WTCC – Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
47 – Nicolas Lapierre – FRA – Lada Sport Rosneft – Lada Vesta WTCC
68 – Yvan Muller – FRA – Citroën Total WTCC – Citroën C-Elysée WTCC
95 – Nasser Al-Attiyah* – QAT – Campos Racing – Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1
* Driver eligible for the Yokohama Independents’ Trophy
FIA WTCC – Race Of Qatar Compensation Weights
Car – Gap – Ballast – Total Weight
Citroën C-Elysée WTCC – 0.0 – +60kg – 1,160kg
Honda Civic WTCC – 0.5 – +40kg – 1,140kg
Lada Vesta WTCC – 0.8 – +10kg – 1,110kg
Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 – 0.9 – +0kg – 1,100kg
FIA WTCC Qatar – Timetable
Thursday 26th November
12:30 – Testing
19:00 – Free Practice 1
21:30 – Free Practice 2
Friday 27th November
15:00 – Qualifying
21:30 – Race 1 (12 Laps)
22:40 – Race 2 (12 Laps)
All times Arabia Standard Time (AST)