Friday, 29 November 2013

WTCC: A Little Clarification on the WTCC 2014 Classes...

So for the past few seasons, trying to determine the different types of Super 2000 Regulation Touring Cars competing in the FIA World Touring Car Championship has been difficult at best...

God knows the missus gets confused herself just trying to figure them out...

And to her they are just "cars going round and round and round..."

So the different class classifications have been made easier for 2014. Each type of Super 2000 Touring Car Catergory will be split into the following:

"TC1" or Touring Car 1 will be cars built specifically to the new 2014 regulations. So thats the Lada's, Citroens, Honda's and RML built Chevys.

"TC2" or Touring Car 2 will be Super 2000 cars built between 2011 and 2013 that use the 1.6 Litre Turbo engines. This includes the BMW 320TC, Honda Civic WTCC, SEAT Leon WTCC, LADA Granta Sport, Volvo C30, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze that we all know and love. These cars will operate in the 2014 WTCC but will be slower than the TC1 cars.

"TC3" or Touring Car 3 will be Super 2000 cars that use the 2.0 Litre Normally Aspirated Engine that dates back to the beginning of the WTCC in 2005. These cars normally compete in the Eurosport Asia Trophy. These would be the BMW 320si, SEAT Leon, Chevrolet Lacetti/Cruze, Alfa Romeo 156 and Honda Accord Euro R. They will also look the same as the TC2 cars so hopefully there will be some form of graphic to determine what car is what Class.

To add to this, its looking highly likely that both the TC2 Class and TC3 Class will be eligible to compete together in the FIA European Touring Car Cup.

Its been too long and very difficult to differentiate these cars up until now and hopefully these new classes will help to clear this up.



Monday, 18 November 2013

WTCC Macau: Muller and Huff step up as Chaos reigns...

Well, The FIA World Touring Car Championship enjoyed its usual spectacular finale on the streets of Macau.

With Yvan Muller declared Champion, the race for 2nd place in the championship behind was down to Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Chilton and James Nash and Macau didn't not disappoint in mixing this battle up.

During practice, Chilton had a big accident which damaged the Chevrolet Cruze and put him on the back foot. After Qualifying, Tarquini needed an engine change which ruled him out of race one and put him at the back of the race two grid.

A "normal for Macau" disrupted qualifying session which saw three stoppages during Q1 after Michael Soong, then Hugo Valente and finally Fredy Barth had session stopping incidents. Barth's crash was so bad that Weichers Sport withdrew from the rest of the event.

Muller took Pole Position in his Cruze by a full second from Montiero in the Honda Civic. Tarquini and Huff lined up 3rd and 4th for row two whilst Michelisz and MacDowall took 5th and 6th to complete row three. Row Four was held by Chilton and Nash with James Thompson putting the LADA 9th and Tom Coronel qualifying 10th and taking Pole for race two.

Oriola didnt make it into Q2 after losing out in Q1 due to the incidents on track. Tom Boardman had a fantastic run in Q1 and would line up 12th behind Huff's Munnich Motorsport team-mate Marc Basseng for both races.

In race one Muller led from Pole to take a lead he would never lose. Monteiro held 2nd but would go on to spend the race defending from Huff's SEAT and Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport Civic. The first lap would be completed by the field without incident however on lap 2 that would change.

Oriola had shown in free practice and qualifying that he had very good speed but his impatience would boil over. On lap 2 he tried a move on the inside of Tom Chilton at Maternity corner and instead made contact with the Cruze, putting Chilton out of the race. This would not be the only incident the spaniard would be involved in...

Oriola would later be passed by Basseng who was showing that he wasnt intimidated by the circuits legendary reputation and was on full attack until he passed Oriola on lap six.

Muller would go on to win from Monteiro and Huff who joined the frenchman on the podium. Michelisz, MacDowall and Nash would finish 4th, 5th and 6th and for Nash, this secured the Yokohama Independents Trophy. Basseng, Oriola, D'Aste and Boardman rounded out the top ten with Coronel finishing 11th.

Race Two however was another matter...

At the first start of race two, Coronel led away from Thompson whilst Huff made his way from seventh on the grid to third. Michelisz however was tapped from behind into what would lead to a race stopping incident. After the cars were cleared, Boardman, Bennani, Valente, Calko, Kozlovskiy and O'Young would not take the restart.

The 2nd start took place behind the safety car where Coronel again led away from Thompson. Huff held station in third whilst further behind Muller and Montiero made contact into San Francisco corner. Muller continued whilst Montiero retired to the pits.

On lap 4, Thompson had to pull off a massive defensive move to hold off the flying Chevrolets of Chilton and Nash and managed to keep 2nd as Nash ran into Chilton. However on lap 5 Chilton would slow with engine problems after Maternity and this would cause another stoppage.

Eurosport Asia Trophy driver Eurico de Jesus hit Chilton in his normally aspirated Honda Accord causing the track to be partially blocked. But on the next lap, as many cars slowed realising the danger, Felipe De Souza in a China Dragon Racing N/A Cruze hit Muller at high speed in the rear whilst the Engstler BMW of Jo Merszei hit the Nika Racing Chevrolet of Taniguchi.

30 minutes later and the race re-started with Huff passing Thompson at Mandarin whilst Nash passed the LADA at Lisboa to drop Thommo to 4th. The LADA simply didn't have the pace to hold off the Chevrolets and Oriola was next to pounce...

Remember Oriola's move on Chilton in race one? Well he tried it again at Maternity on Thompson and made contact again with the LADA hitting the wall. What looked a promising race for the englishman ended there.

Huff went on a charge after Coronel and passed the Dutch BMW driver to take the lead whilst Oriola passed Coronel for 2nd on the final lap. Huffy went on to take his 6th win in the WTCC, tieing him with Eduardo Mortara for the most amount of wins on the streets of Macau. Behind Huff, Oriola and Coronel completed the podium with Nash, MacDowall and Muller 4th, 5th and 6th. Completing the top ten behind them were Basseng, Engstler, Tarquini (who started from the pitlane) and Henry Ho, competing in an N/A BMW.

After the races, Oriola would be penalised by 30 seconds for his race one incident with Chilton and reprimanded for his race two incident with Thompson.

Here's a hint Pepe... You cant pass at Maternity!!!

So in the end, Tarquini secured 2nd place behind Muller from James Nash who took 3rd in the overall title race.

And so the 2013 FIA WTCC season ends. Now the work begins on the 2014 season which sees bigger, faster, more aerodynamic cars from newcomers Citroen joining Honda, LADA and RML built Chevrolets.

What has been confirmed so far is that Campos Racing will field a 2014 Chevrolet Cruze for Hugo Valente whilst Tom Chilton will drive a 2014 Cruze but we are waiting for confirmation of what team. Bamboo has purchased 2 Cruzes whilst RML will take a year out, due to return in 2015.

Sebastian Loeb joins Muller at Citroen whilst Rob Huff joins Thompson and Kozlovskiy at what will be a 3 car LADA team. Honda confirmed cars for Tarquini and Montiero whilst Michelisz and Bennani will recieve customer support.

Also, 2014 will see the current crop of S2000 cars that will be known as TC2 cars still eligible but over 1 kilometre, they will be 1.5 seconds slower. So far the Engstler BMW team are expected to compete in TC2 whilst Campos have said they will run cars and Munnich Motorsport will make a partial programme.

Well, if you ask me, next year looks rosy. So enjoy the run to Christmas, make sure the tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped and the cupboards are stocked.

Meanwhile I'll keep you updated with all the tintop news.



Sunday, 10 November 2013

WTCC: Anything Can happen at Macau...

Theres a saying in Motorsport...

"Anything can happen at Macau..."

The Macau Grand Prix celebrates its 60th Anniversary this year by having two weekends of top level Tintop, Single Seater and Superbike racing.

Every year for as long as I have been on this earth (hint: since 1977) and before there has been an End of season event at Macau where motorsports best comes and attempts to win the race in the catergory they participate in.

Its known to be the jewel in the crown for aspiring Formula One drivers that take part in the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix.

Its known to be the best of the best for the road and circuit racing Superbikers that try and tame the street circuit.

Its also known as the season finale for the FIA World Touring Car Championship since 2005.

But what makes makes Macau so special?

Well its a Street Circuit. Straight away you think of other street circuits such as Monaco, Porto, Marrakech and Pau which all have their own unique attributes. The level of concentration to thread the racing line in Practice, Qualifying and the Race during the weekend is increased tenfold, whilst safety is at its highest it can be.

But while Monaco is tight and twisty, Pau is slow and challenging, Macau is odd in that it has a long fast section of straights where the WTCC Cars will reach 150 mph and it has fast tight and twisty sections that follow, daring the drivers to go as fast as they can, getting as close to the barrier or wall as much as they dare. Its got the slowest, tightest hairpin in the world and its following is legendary and iconic.

Its also an impressive mark on any motor racing drivers CV to have taken a win at Macau...

For those that win on the streets of Macau in tintops, it ticks a box that shows that driver has the talent to win WTCC Titles, knowing how to push his touring car to the edge, often leading to a talent recognised as being one of the best Touring Car drivers in the World, along with such names as Muller, Winkelhock, Soper, Biela, Menu, Harvey and Huff.

For those that win on the streets of Macau in the Formula 3 Grand Prix, it ticks a box that is often a precursor to a future Formula One seat again joining an elite of recognised talent. Such great names that have won the Formula 3 GP as Ayrton Senna, Rickard Rydell, Michael Schumacher, David Brabham, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard.

In WTCC terms, Macau has often been the scene of Championship finales that include huge crashes and awesome, heroic drives. Andy Priaulx won all three of his WTCC Titles at Macau, Yvan Muller lost the 2009 title to then SEAT team mate Gabriele Tarquini due to mechanical failure. Rob Huff won both races in 2011 but despite that, Muller won the 2011 title.

In 2013, Yvan Muller has already won the FIA WTCC Drivers title. However there is the fight for 2nd place in the final standings between RML's Tom Chilton, Castrol Honda's Gabriele Tarquini and Bamboo Chevrolet's James Nash.

The Yokohama Trophy for Independent Drivers Title is also up for grabs between Bamboo Chevrolet team-mates James Nash from Milton Keynes and Alex MacDowall from Carlisle.

Expect fast close racing, safety cars, huge crashes and edge of your seat racing...

So, now you can understand why they say that "Anything can happen in Macau..."

If you fancy a spot of decent racing before the Austin Grand Prix, check out Eurosport and Motors TV if you have it and set your TV Box to record.



Saturday, 9 November 2013

WTCC China: Chilton and Montiero to the front...

For the 2nd year in a row, the FIA World Touring Car Championship headed to the Grand Prix circuit at Shanghai for the penultimate two races before heading to the legendary Macau Guia circuit for the season finale.

Now I love watching the WTCC racing at Shanghai as its the final purpose built circuit the series races on and it provides good racing from the tintops. Last year, the three works Chevrolet drivers of Rob Huff, Yvan Muller and Alain Menu were fighting it out for the title and no quarter was given or asked by any of them.

This year, with Muller crowned as Champion, the view turns to who will end up 2nd in the title race. A fight that is between three drivers: Tom Chilton, Gabriele Tarquini and James Nash.

The two Chinese rounds also saw two swedish touring car legends return to the WTCC for one off appearances:

Rickard Rydell and Volvo.

Rydell returned to the series to occupy the seat at Nika Racing vacated by former 2012 STCC team-mate Michel Nykjaer and Japan WTCC event only entrant Hiroki Yoshimoto. Rydell is familiar with the car and team having raced for them in 2011 and 2012 in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship.

Volvo returned to the WTCC after last competing in the 2011 season with a lone C30 Drive, then driven by Robert Dahlgren. This time it was driven by 2013 STCC Champion Thed Bjork. The one off visit to the Chinese round was to evaluate if the WTCC was maintaining its "Cost Effective" racing.

Now I admit, I'm a big Rydell fan and Volvo fan from back in the SuperTouring days when the Rydell/Volvo combination was mighty in the BTCC, but I also maintain that the experience he holds makes him just as good a driver as Muller and Tarquini. When all three men were team-mates at SEAT, Rydell was the match of both men.

So personally, as I've written in previous blogs, I hope that both Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu will return to the WTCC and that Volvo will consider a return also.

Anyway, to business...

In Qualifying, the top 6 positions for race one were taken by Chevrolets. Yvan Muller took Pole from RML team-mate Chilton. Row Two was taken by Tuenti Racings Pepe Oriola and  Bamboo Engineerings James Nash with Alex MacDowall and Rickard Rydell locking out row three. Norbert Michelisz took 7th ahead of Rob Huff in the Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon whilst the two Works Hondas of Tarquini and Montiero locked out row five, giving Montiero Pole for race two.

Notable losers in Qualifying were James Thompson, Tom Coronel and Thed Bjork in the Volvo. Bjork qualified 12 in Q1 meaning he could progress through to Q2, however as he was not scoring points and wasnt eligible to go through to Q2 due to the one off entry, this would have elevated Tom Coronel to 12th... However it didnt...

When Q2 began only 11 cars would go out. Bjork would later suffer a 5 place grid drop for being underweight by 5kgs due to not having an on board camera and would start 17th for both races.

James Thompson showed good speed in the Lada Granta but didnt make it into Q2. However the Lada has always showed better race pace than qualifying pace this year.

Whilst Qualifying took place on a dry track, race day was damp with both races declared wet. First retirement was Thed Bjork in the Volvo, which refused to fire up due to Battery issues.

From the start, Muller led Chilton away whilst Oriola pursued both of the RML Chevrolets. With the young spaniard on wets, he soon overtook the slick shod cars and took the lead. But Oriola was unable to make a gap big enough to defend his lead and later on in the race, he fell back.

Rydell and Thompson also took to wet tyres and both moved through the pack in the beginning, however it was Rob Huff who made good progress. The SEAT driver fell back behind the three Honda Civics due to the track conditions but the 2012 WTCC Champion made his way back past them to end up challenging Oriola for 5th at the flag.

As Rydell fell into the clutches of Nash, MacDowall, Michelisz, Huff, Tarquini and Montiero, Oriola lost out to Muller and Chilton. Tom then started to put pressure on Yvan and on the final lap got a great run out of the hairpin to run side by side through the final corner and take the race win by hundreths of a second.

Chilton won from Muller, Nash, MacDowall and Oriola, who held off Huff for 5th. Tarquini took 7th from James Thompson who held on to 8th. Surprise of race one was Tom Boardman who worked his way up to finish 9th with Michelisz 10th. Montiero finished 11th whilst Rydell fell to 14th.

Race Two was an all Honda affair as Montiero led away from Tarquini, Michelisz and Huff. Coronel made contact with Rydell who held on to a fantastic slide, however the Swede would retire later on with damage.

Whilst the Works Hondas broke away, Michelisz led a pack of cars that included Huff, Muller, Nash, Oriola and Coronel. Chilton lost ground at the standing start and found himself battling with the BMW's. Muller soon found his way past Nash, however he couldnt break the stern defence of Huff and would finish behind his ex team mate.

Oriola, Nash and Coronel would have an exciting battle between them with Coronel passing Nash, only for the BMW to lose out to the superior grip of the Chevrolets and watched as both Oriola and Nash passed back again.

Chilton would fight his way past the BMW's, following the canny Stefano D'Aste who made his way quietly through the field. Both Fredy Barth and Darryl O'Young collided at the hairpin on the last lap in thier BMW's.

So Montiero took his first WTCC win in three years followed by Tarquini, Michelisz, Huff and Muller. Nash, Oriola, Coronel, D'Aste and Chilton completed the top ten.

Now time for some 2014 WTCC News...

One confirmation for 2014 was announced when Lada confirmed that Rob Huff would be joining James Thompson and Michael Kozlovskiy on a 3 Lada Team on a 2 year contract. Having both of these drivers in the team will push Lada forward in 2014 with both Huffy and Thommo well known for developing cars. This knowledge will also be useful for the Lada Priora WTCC car being considered for the 2015 season.

Meanwhile on the run up to the Chinese WTCC weekend, Honda confirmed that they would retain Tarquini and Montiero in the Works Castrol Honda's. Zengo Motorsport confirmed a one car effort for Norbert Michelisz whilst Italian team ProTeam were confirmed as the recipient of the 4th 2014 Honda Civic with Mehdi Bennani at the wheel.

Several other announcements made were that Munnich Motorsport will run a partial WTCC program next year with the Class B SEAT Leon whilst they run a partial programme in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship using Audi A3's in the Supercar catergory. However the team confirmed they will return for a full WTCC programme in 2015.

Volvo have announced that since taking part in the WTCC this year, they are investigating the possibility of seeing if the S60 model can be converted to the 2014 Super 2000 rules for a potential future entry. Along with the V8 Supercars S60 being run by Garry Rogers Motorsport next year and the announcement of an NGTC Volvo being built for entry into the BTCC next year, could this be a full time return of Volvo to top line tintops?

Finally, many sources expect an announcement to take place either at or after the Macau finale regarding RML's 2014 Chevrolet plans for the 2014 season. Rumours say that between 6-8 new Cruzes could be seen next year but we'll have to wait and see who has them and who is driving them.

So, more pieces fall into place as the 2013 season winds down and prep begins for the 2014 season. But as they say...

"Anything can happen at Macau..."