Saturday, 30 March 2013

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda... WTCC Style

I've noticed a worrying trend in the WTCC in the last couple of seasons and wanted to share this with you...

Since its re-introduction in 2005, the WTCC had a stable base of manufacturers taking paft in the form of BMW, Alfa Romeo, SEAT, Chevrolet and Honda's, all having works teams representing them apart from Honda who ran as an independent.

Then the exodus began. Alfa Romeo and Honda left, citing rising costs as their issue.This left BMW, SEAT and Chevrolet as manufacturers. In 2008 and 2009 LADA entered, first with their 110 model followed in 2009 with the Priora. Both driven by former SEAT and Alfa Romeo man James Thompson.

However, they disappeared in 2010, as did SEAT works support. SEAT's issue was rising costs and falling car sales. LADA didnt give a reason at all.

This left BMW and Chevrolet with Works teams. However issues with the parity of the SEAT Turbo Diesel added to the fact that BMW were unhappy with how the championship was being governed ended with their withdrawal.

Chevrolet was the only works team left.

Now, heres the pattern...

Volvo first. They made annual appearences in the WTCC from 2008 onwards at Brands Hatch only with the C30 model. In 2011 they fielded a new C30 with Robert Dahlgren at the wheel. They also made it clear that 2011 was an evaluation programmme for a possible expanded works team in 2012.
The WTCC changed its engine regulations from 2.0 litre normally aspirated to 1.6 litre turbo engines.Once the turbo engine was fitted, Dahlgren was a match for the works Chevys in every meeting.

However, in 2012 they too cited the volatile sales market and the budget not being available for WTCC. But they had a budget to allow the same team to run cars domestically in the STCC.

Hmmm... same as SEAT and Alfa Romeo. There's definitely a pattern here...

2012 arrives with the UK based Arena International team aka Team Aon entering the WTCC with 2 updated Mk 3 Ford Focuses for Tom Chilton and James Nash. Now this wasn't a works effort and Ford had offered works backing for 2013 based on interest generated and sales of its new Ford Focus WTCC road model.

While both drivers soldiered on with the car being constantly updated due to a mis-interpretation of the regulations and scored points sporadically, the Focus never troubled the frontrunners sadly. The backing from Ford never materialised and over the winter, Team Aon was closed down. The 3 cars built have been sold to new owners and word is they could appear in the flyaway WTCC races this year.

So with Honda and LADA returning this year, both in a Works capacity and Chevrolet having withdrawn works support for the Cruzes (not that its slowed them down), the WTCC has a healthy manufacturer count of 5. Possibly 6 if the Fords return.

But that count could've been higher if some of the previous manufacturers had stuck to it. And the effect could've been even better. Follow me through my ideal world for WTCC...

Ok. BMW first. Its well known that Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus tested the BMW 320TC for the new 1.6 litre turbo for the BMW customer teams but that was it. BMW switched its focus to the DTM. Now if they had kept a 2 car team in WTCC, say Priaulx and Farfus stayed on, then Chevrolet would have had the  competition to work against they wanted and have the fight in the championship they said they missed...

Volvo next. For those in the know, James Thompson was a works Volvo driver for about 8 months before leaving and heading back to LADA. Had Volvo brought a 2 car team to WTCC in 2012, my guess is Dahlgren would have stayed on and the 2nd C30 would have been occupied by an experienced WTCC driver. Rumours at the time put Tarquini in the second seat after a weekend in the STCC in the C30. Again giving Chevrolet the competition they craved to have...

So there is a case for the "Ideal World" WTCC that it may not have been the borefest many considered it. In my opinion it wasnt, but again all this is in my opinion.

However, with a brighter future ahead including new rules for the cars and more manufacturers looking to join, this year the WTCC looks in good health.



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