News and views on motorsports

Monday, March 19, 2007

More Thoughts On The WTCC

I watched last Sunday's WTCC race from Curtibia once again today. The current situation in the WTCC seems quite dire and I just wanted a reminder of the issues at hand. Especially now since SEAT is threatening to leave the series. That would would be disastrous as far as this championship is concerned.

The fact of the matter is the WTCC does tend to pull in the crowds on race weekends. But unlike Formula 1 which not only enjoys better promotion but enjoys better visibility as well in the mainstream media the world over. Whereas the WTCC depends on the championship being close and hard fought. It simply would not do to have a single make of car dominating the championship even though teams running that make of car are battling it out amongst themselves.

In other words, it would be commercial suicide for the KSO or the FIA not to intefere to equalise the performance of the cars in order to ensure close racing. In this day and age where other sports are competing for viewers and all professional sports rely on sponsorship, the entertainment value must be high even though this leads to a dilution of the sport's purity.

In motor racing this means that measures must be taken to ensure the competitiveness of the entire field and to ensure the spectators are fed with entertainment packed races. To me, racing should be free of such "match fixing" but I realise the pressure the folks like KSO are under.

So really, KSO and the FIA must consider very hard the measures to take next. On one hand, there's BMW who over have been very industrious over the winter particularly in the aero department. All that hard work is now paying off and the cars are simply unbeatable. Should they not fully enjoy the benefits of all that effort?

On the other hand, there's SEAT. I completely missed one fact in my previous post. And that is the FIA gave the 15kg advantage to BMW in return for the new rolling start regulations this year. The rolling start is meant to negate the advantages of rear wheel drive cars i.e. BMW during the start of the race. As you know rear wheel drive cars enjoy better traction off a standing start whereas the front drivers are scrabbling for grip.

BMW deftly negotiated with the FIA to hand them an advantage whilst taking away another. But in a championship such as this, where the regulations are formulated to give an equal chance to all types of machinery whether front or rear driven, did the FIA agree to such a thing? It bloody well makes no sense at all. The fact of the matter is front wheel drive will always be at a disadvantage on the circuit. The regulations are meant to equalise this.

And yet the FIA agreed to give BMW the weight advantage. This is complete bullshit. Of course BMW would agree to it. A 15 kg weight advantage is always advantageous to them. For one, a rolling start only equalises performance between the different types of cars. Whereas a weight advantage penalises the front drivers. Plus, the weight advantage is one that lasts throughout the entire race whereas a rolling start is only useful when the lights turn green.

Looking at BMW of course they would find any excuse the get a weight reduction. Thats the reason why they chose to stick with a standard H 5 speed gearbox rather than choose a 6 speed sequential tranny. The 50 kg reduction in weight by choosing the standard H is far more valuable than the time or convenience gained from a sequential box. Otherwise, you can bet that BMW would choose the sequential shifter.

Didn't the FIA see this at all? I'm sure when they offered BMW the deal, Mario Thiessen was simply licking his lips with glee.

As I said in my previous post, now we shall see if it all comes good when the success ballast rules kick in for the next round of the championship. But then again, the SEATs of Yvan Muller and Garbriele Tarquini will also be hit by ballast. I should think the BMWs will still have an advantage and potentially a big one still.

I should think they ought to keep the rolling start and take back those 15kg to make it fair. Anymore than that would be penalising BMW's hard winter work which would then make it unfair to them.

SEAT on the other hand should accept that BMW have worked hard and they should enjoy whatever success they get.

The KSO on the other hand is in between a rock and a hard place. Yes, they can allow the BMW to romp through 2007 to the title. Even though they give back the 15 kg to BMW, I should think there's nothing to stop the Priaulx, Farfus and Muller trio. But can KSO afford the BMWs to run away?

NASCARs success has always rested on the fact that all cars have been made equal and the championship itself marketed as entertainment to the "casual fan." Its disgusting to me and it reeks of "wrestling." But this is a matter of principle. I like my racing pure. On the other hand though, the entertainment value of NASCAR is undeniable particularly to NASCAR fans.

The KSO might dislike Volkswagen Audi Group, of which SEAT is a member, because of all the money they like to spend. But the hard reality is, where else shall the competition come from if not from SEAT. The Alfas have all but packed up. N Technology is the only team remaining but they are competing with a car introduced way back in 2001 and is very long in tooth now. If SEAT leaves (which I really doubt) the series would lack the variety needed. And the entertainment value will also diminish. (The BMW teams are unlikely to engage in argy bargy and high risk overtaking maneuvers no matter how hard they battle)

I don't know if Alan Gow and the BTCC will adopt the rolling start / 15 kilo adjustment in the British Championship. After all, they are running to Super 2000 rules this year. But in the case of the BTCC, the SEATs and Vauxhalls, both running front wheel drive racing cars, are the only works teams. Those running BMWs and Toyota Altezzas (both rear wheel drive) in this series are all privateers. Perhaps Alan will consider giving the 15 kilos to help the privateers along the way.

But I shall stick to my theory which I posted last time. The FIA and KSO are wary of VAG. Perhaps they sought to negate their advantages and spending. But I think it may have backfired in a big way. We await the next round of the WTCC to see how it all works out.

One last thing before I go. Why the hell did the two works SEATs make it so simple for Priaulx and Muller to go past them? They hardly defended their line at all at the end of the main straight in Brazil. For a proper defence, one should look at the way Tom Coronel defended against both the works BMW. The GRAsia car mounted a very stern defence of his position now that they are considered by the regulations to be a manufacturer squad. (They aren't really... no in actuality) And there was just one of him whereas the BMWs were up against two works SEATs. Pathetic!

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