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Monday, April 04, 2005

World Touring Car Round Up

The season kicks off this weekend at Monza. Works backed manufacturer teams include BMW, Alfa Romeo, SEAT, Chevrolet and Ford. Honda and Peugot will supply essentially semi-works outfits with cars and equipment to contest the ten rounds of the championship. In total 30 cars have confirmed their entry in the WTC with other teams preparing to compete in selected rounds. I have heard that Honda Malaysia will be converting their MME Honda Civic to full Super 2000 specifications and contest an unspecified number of rounds in the WTC.

A full entry list for the WTC is here. In addition to that list Tom Coronel formerly of Carly Motorsports BMW team has jumped ship and will compete with the SEAT Sport Holland team running the SEAT Toleda Cupra. Those of you who've watched Macau in recent years will know of Coronel's exploits very well.

Some other interesting teams look to be the JAS Motorsport Honda Accords and the SEAT teams running among others Rikard Rydell.

The championship has also attracted the attentions of Chevrolet (nee Daewoo) and Brilliance, the new China car manufacturer currently storming Europe with cheap cars and SUVs. Chevrolet admit they have a lot of work to do. The Chevrolet Lacetti however are in the very capable hands of former British Touring Car Champion Alain Menu and Formula 1 refugee Nicola Larini.

The Super 2000 rules are interesting with regulations dependant upon the number of cylinders in the engine and choice of gearbox. You can choose standard 5 speed "H" pattern manual gearboxes or 6 speed sequential boxes with weight penalties. There is even a diesel category. These allow the competitor to run 2 litre 4 cylinder turbodiesels against the normally aspirated petrol cars. You can read the technical regulations here and here.
A summarised version can be found here.

The testing form book currently favours the Autodelta Alfa Romeo Racing Team. In the first official test in Monza, Augusto Farfus leading the pack in his Alfa 156 (yuck!) but not by much. The top 10 covered by just a second between them. Jorg Muller (former Macau GP winner in both Guia and F3 categories) and Dirk Muller of BMW Team Deutschland (Schnitzer) 320is running the Brazilian very close. Behind them, comes Antonio Garcia of BMW Team Italy-Spain run by former touring car legend Roberto Ravaglia, the Honda Accord Euro R of Roberto Colciago and British Touring Car Champion James Thompson in another Alfa 156. All in quick succession. Then comes a name that should be familiar to Formula 1 and Champcar fans, Alex Zanardi in a specially modified BMW 320i run by BMW Team Italy-Spain.

In the second official test Augusto Farfus again leads the lapcharts followed by team mate Gabriele Tarquini (who finished third in last year's ETCC). The Schnitzer run BMW 320is respectively third and fourth for Jorg Muller and Dirk Muller.

The Alfa team look incredibly strong for this first round in Monza. Its long straights obviously favouring the minimal power losses afforded by transverse gearbox front wheel drive configuration. But I surely expect the BMWs to feature in Macau, Istanbul, Valencia, Puebla (Mexico) and Oschersleben (Germany). These are circuits with a number of tight technical turns and should favour the agility of the rear wheel drive BMWs.

Alfa Romeo is looking to avenge last year's defeat in the ETCC and the form book suggests that first blood will be drawn by them come this Sunday. All in all the WTC will feature some of the most exciting touring car action we've seen (or haven't seen) in a while, with lots of former touring car champions competing. Certainly catch it on TV if you can.

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