Well the two World Touring Car Championship races from the Slovakiaring at the weekend produced some excellent racing and two more different winners for the 2013 season in Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel.
Yes, thats right Coronel...I'll explain that one later...
Honda's mandate for the 2013 WTCC season was simple. Win races and titles. Thats it. So the testing on the car this year has been aggressive to make sure these targets are acheived.
However, the evidence of this working was shown with not only with the Works Honda's taking a 1-2 finish in Race 1 but also with Zengo Motorsports Norbert Michelisz taking 3rd in the Works assisted Customer Honda. The Honda's have shown pace at Monza and Marrakech (Tarquini took Pole Position at Marrakech for Race 1) and it was only a matter of race weekends before wins were scored.
What was also evident was that the Chevrolets suffered. Muller wrung the neck of the Chevrolet Cruze in both races to fight against the Honda Civic's but they had an answer for everything he tried. Chilton had his hands full fighting off Norbert in Race 2 while Nash, MacDowall and Nykjaer spent both races fending off each other or, in the case of Race 1, Nash defending from Tom Coronel in the lighter BMW.
Now remember that Yvan Muller has driven and developed the Cruze since he joined the RML Chevrolet Team in 2010 and that Yvan is arguably the best driver on the grid. So he knows what he can do with the car. However now that the works support has gone, Muller now has a fight on his hands for the drivers title that he could lose...to his good friend Tarquini.
It is clear already that Tarquini can now fight with Muller for the Drivers Title. He has a works car that is fast and young with an agressive development underway and he reduced the points gap last weekend to Muller and that gap could well be reduced again in Hungary this weekend coming.
In a previous WTCC Blog post, I have mentioned about how clean both Tarquini and Muller have raced against in previous seasons. This is due to their friendship off track as well as on track. Normally there is no contact between them when fighting for position.
Well, that piece of contact finally happened. In Race 1, Tarquini gave Muller a light tap on the rear left corner and this had Muller sideways. After the race, there were words exchanged between the two drivers. But this wont be the last time this year...
As I said earlier, Coronel won Race 2...at a canter. The reason for this is simple. Since BMW left the WTCC at the end of 2010, support for the customer teams has dropped off the face of the earth. They have built and minimally developed the 1.6 litre turbo, so added with the heavy weight of the BMW Chassis makes the car the slowest on the grid.
However, onwards from last weekend, The BMW's can now have Carbon Fibre doors. This allows the car to be lighter and more competitive against the other WTCC cars. So with Race 2 Pole Position, Tom got an excellent start and controlled the race from the front. He took a well deserved win for ROAL Motorsport and showed that the car could take more wins.
I'm going to say this because its true. BMW made a mistake leaving the WTCC with their works team. But thats a debate that will go on for a while...
Huffy showed excellent pace in his SEAT, starting 17th in Race 1 (due a penalty) and 4th in Race 2. His race 1 fight with fellow brit James Thompson was entertaining and fun to watch. But his Race 2 fight with Muller and Tarquini was yet another reminder of his close fights from 2011 and 2012 when he was Muller's team mate in the Works Chevy's.
However, as is the trait of the Slovakiaring, his front tyres gave up several laps from the end. Muller and Tarquini were through and Huffy had to defend from Monteiro in the 2nd Works Honda. Its obvious that the Munnich Motorsport Guys are quickly getting to grips with the SEAT Leon in WTCC Trim. There are podiums waiting for Huff and Marc Basseng in those SEAT's this year...
Speaking of Thompson, the Lada suffered at this circuit. He was on fightback duties in both races and happily fought against a trio of BMW's in Race 2. The problem is that the team havent tested at the circuit before and this did not show the benefits of the lighter weight given the the Lada. Its the lightest car on the grid!
However Thompson raced the Granta Sport at Hungary last year, so I'm going to stick out my neck and say that he will take a podium finish this weekend.
You heard it here first...
The award for worst luck of the season goes to Tom Boardman and Special Tuning Racing. In 2013, STR is running just one SEAT Leon and unfortunately Tom has been in the wars.
At Monza he was hit in Race 2, breaking a steering arm, a notorious weakness on the Leon. At Marrakech in Morning Warm Up, he hit a wall at 120mph and badly damaged the car, ruling him out of both races. At the Slovakiaring he went through 4 engine changes, rendering the weekend to a test session only. Hopefully Tom will be more competitive next time out at Hungary. As the song goes, the only way is up...
So with the next 2 races at the Hungaroring on Sunday you can be assured of one thing. The track will be full of fans rooting for a home win for Norbert Michelisz in his Honda. He did it last year in the BMW and the place erupted. So with the ever improving performance of the Civic, I'll also stick my neck out and say Norbert will win on home turf.
Now this weekend its not only WTCC in action from the Hungaroring in Hungary (officially the 2nd biggest event after the Hungarian Grand Prix at the track) but also the BTCC is in action at Thruxton. So its Tintops weekend!
I'm sure I've been to Thruxton before...
Already I can hear the groans from the missus about the amount of touring car racing thats on this weekend alone, that we watch. However the DTM starts its season off at the Hockenheimring (I'll be cheering on Priaulx, Farfus and Glock), the Aussie V8 Supercars are in action and the Swedish Touring Car Championship gets itself underway after another rocky off season for the series.
Its a pity that the DTM isnt live on a Channel I already pay for...and I don't pay for ESPN. I have no intention of paying £10 for 1 channel that will be dropped by Sky at the end of July. I did enjoy the ITV4 highlights last year, however I am reliably informed that they wont be showing DTM highlights via their twitter feed.
Anyway, I'll leave you to your evening and remember its only 5 days until the Touring Cars are racing again!!!