News and views on motorsports

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Bully Boys

The FIA WTCC kicked of at Curtibia last weekend and saw the Schnitzer run Team BMW Deutschland taking two out of two races in the hands of (ugh) Jorg Muller and Augusto Farfus. In both races, reigning champion Andy Priaulx came in second.

The way the Beemers were going there was bound to be protest from the other teams, particularly SEAT. Jorg Muller pretty much sealed the argument for SEAT when he himself confessed to being surprised at just how fast his 320Si was in the straights.

We all know the reason of course. Rear wheel drive confers an advantage on the circuit. And now that the FIA, via its hateful World Motorsport Council, have decided to take away 15kilos out of the rear wheel drive weight limit, the advantage is pressed even further.

Its quite inexplicable why this should be so. However, I shall offer a wildly speculative theory. SEAT you see, falls under the great umbrella of the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG). And in this group you will also find that other great competitor, Audi. The VAG isn't at all shy about spending money on racing if this brings about their utter domination. Need we mention the Audi R8 and R10. Or howabout one off Le Mans special like the Bentley Speed 8 of a few years ago.

Clearly the VAG want to win and at all costs. Its never said in public but many an organiser fears the presence of the VAG with all their spending power. The WTCC organisers, the Kigema Sports Organisation (KSO) are just one them. **1 VAG have this nasty habit of spending beyond all recognition which forces the other manufacturers to spend more to remain competitive.

Pre season, the SEATs have been through some relentless development work and the intent of VAG is apparent in the number of stars that have been employed to pilot their cars. I would speculate that the FIA deliberately then reduced the weight limits for rear drive cars, effectively meaning BMW.

Now of course, the weight penalties will come into effect after the first round and the Beemers will be saddled with maximum penalties. Will this be enough? We'll wait and see but if previous seasons are any guide, then it ought to be. But yet, SEAT are not happy about the situation at all. After all, the regulations are meant to equalise the cars before the application of weight penalties.

Given that the WTCC rules so tightly formulated, catching up on equal terms will be nigh impossible. With the rules defined as it is, even large amounts of money, VAG amounts of money, will only buy so much improvement. This is precisely the FIA's intentions. But when competitors do not start on equal footing, the weaker party will forever be on the back foot with no way of catching up again.

You might beg the question why SEAT did not make a faster car in the first place. Well, they did given the rules but as usual in this day and age, the FIA loves to arbitrarily change them.

Still I think it could still be a good championship ahead. After all, they mught just rob BMW of their advantage mid season if they start running away with it. And you can bet the FIA will do this. After all, this isn't a "pure" championship in the sense that equalisation and fan entertainment is stated objective. And what do the casual fans care, right?


1. The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) are another one I would imagine. They way Audi loves to run away with championships year on year is proof of their spending abilities. The ALMS favourable nod to the LMP2 class is a way of balancing that out.

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