Manuel Fernandes to race in a third Lada Vesta at Vila Real

Portuguese driver Manuel Fernandes will make his World Touring Car Championship debut next weekend at Vila Real, driving a third Lada Vesta for RC Motorsport.

Fernandes had a successful weekend at his home circuit last year, winning the first race in a privately-run SEAT León in the supporting European Touring Car Cup race. He will make the move up to WTCC this year, bringing the field up to 17 cars as he joins Frenchman Yann Ehrlacher and American Kevin Gleason at the Magny-Cours-based squad.

Fernandes missed out on making his WTCC debut two years ago with Campos Racing, after the Portuguese ASN didn’t grant him a racing licence for the first running of the Vila Real street race.

“I’m really excited,” said Fernandes. “I missed the opportunity to do this race two years ago but I knew inside that one day if I had another chance to participate I wouldn’t let it go. This is the opportunity to do one thing that I love in a no-pressure environment. My preparation will be on the racing weekend only but it’s my city, a track that I know very well and with no need to get any results. It’s important I enjoy this as much as possible.”

François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, added: “We are very pleased to welcome Manuel, a second Portuguese driver of course, to the WTCC family for his home race. Manuel is a driver with considerable experience and ability. He’s well aware of the level of the WTCC and the drivers but he’s approaching this opportunity in a very sensible way, he has a good team around him and we wish him well.”