The World Touring Car Championship descended on Monza today, to begin the European leg of the 2010 season which starts with the WTCC Yokohama Race of Italy this weekend.
Set in the picturesque Villa Reale park north of Monza, testing got underway this afternoon on the 5.793 kilometre Autodromo Nazionale with BMW Team RBM’s Augusto Farfus leading the way.
The Brazilian made steady progress throughout the session regaining the top spot with just over 10-minutes to go and improving in the final seconds to record a best lap of 2:01.491.
It was a good start for all the manufacturers with Yvan Muller finishing the session second (2:01.831) in his Chevrolet Cruze and Tom Coronel rounding out the top three in his SEAT León TDI (2:01.992). Chevrolet’s Rob Huff (2:02.152) and Alain Menu (2:02.223) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Huff and Muller were two of the drivers to cut the first chicane as the field got to grips with the high speed challenge of Monza during the 30-minute session. Defending champion Gabriele Tarquini (2:02.323) posted the sixth fastest time while team mate Jordi Gené (2:02.364) was seventh.
Danish newcomer Michel Nykjær (2:02.667) was the best of the rookies finishing eighth overall, while Stefano D’Aste (2:03.200) was the top Independent in ninth. Hungarian rookie Norbert Michelisz (2:03.435) rounded out the top ten.
On his first outing for Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden, Argentine newcomer Leonel Pernía finished thirteenth with a time of 2:03.664 in his Chevrolet Cruze LT.
It was a mixed afternoon for BMW Team RBM with Farfus ending on top while team mate, and Marrakech race winner, Andy Priaulx had a brake disk explode at the end of the straight. He cut the chicane to avoid hitting Menu who was just ahead, before crawling back to the pit lane.
Rookie Challenge racer Fredy Barth had oil pressure problems so stopped out on track early and then pitted to avoid any further damage to his SEAT León TDI. Moroccan Independent racer Mehdi Bennani stopped out on track, but with gearbox problems. Sergio Hernández did not take part in the session due to technical problems with his BMW 320si, which the team are still investigating.

Augusto Farfus and his BMW 320si posted the fastest lap today in Monza

Just a handful of WTCC independent and rookie drivers took part in Thursday’s private test at Monza ahead of the Race of Italy this weekend.
Sunred’s Michel Nykjær drove his SEAT León TDI car in six out of the seven sessions, completing 61 laps and posting the day’s fastest lap time of 2:02.409.
Mehdi Bennani of Wiechers-Sport completed an even longer test, covering 72 laps split across the seven sessions. The best lap of the Moroccan’s BMW 320si was 2:02.993, which was the second fastest time of the day.
Other drivers who participated in the test were: Franz Engstler (47 laps, best 2:03.304), Fredy Barth (50 laps, best 2:03.320), Stefano D’Aste (11 laps, best 2:04.686) and Andrei Romanov (60 laps, best 2:04.989).

After running Argentine guest driver Leonel Pernía this weekend in Monza, the Chevrolet team will enter a fourth Cruze car once again in the WTCC Race of Belgium at Zolder; this time for local hero Vincent Radermecker.
Radermecker is not new to Chevrolet. The 42-year old from Liège claimed the 2006 ADAC Procar Championship in Germany at the wheel of a Maurer Motorsport Chevrolet Lacetti that he also drove in two rounds of that year’s WTCC. He was also crowned Belgian touring car champion in 2005 and French Supertouring vice-champion in 2002.
Vincent Radermecker commented: "I am really happy with this opportunity to be back in the WTCC behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Cruze, in ideal conditions and in my own country. I am conscious that the level of professionalism and competitiveness in the series is tremendously high, but I hope that my excellent knowledge of the track will be a plus and I am confident that I can do well. This weekend I will be in Monza to work with the team and the drivers, and then I will participate in the shake-down at MIRA ahead of the Zolder race, which will allow me to familiarize myself with the Cruze".

Vincent Radermecker will drive for Chevrolet at Zolder

Argentine fans will be able to follow the performances of Touring Car star, Leonel Pernía, on TV this weekend when he joins the WTCC in Monza, thanks to new TV deals concluded by Eurosport Events in the South American Country.
For this season, TyC Sports, the leading cable sports channel in Argentina, will extend its WTCC coverage with live broadcasts of the races (starting with Monza), while SPEED Channel Latin America will also start covering the championship. In addition, highlights and news reports focusing on Leonel Pernía will also be aired by TV news channels Todo Noticias (TN) and Channel 13.

Yokohama is the Event Presenting Partner of this weekend’s WTCC event in Monza.
As title sponsor, the Yokohama Rubber Company will gain increased exposure via exclusive naming rights of the event – WTCC Yokohama Race of Italy – and a premium visibility on TV, at the track, on the internet and on all promotional documents.
The Japan-based manufacturing company, who is the World Championship’s official tyre supplier, will use this sponsorship opportunity to promote the launch of its new road-going C.drive2 eco tyre.
"We’re delighted to support the Italian event of the WTCC," said Yokohama’s European Motorsports Manager, Farid Al-Samarrai. "Yokohama has been the official tyre supplier to the WTCC since 2006 and strives to continue the development of our products for both on and off the race track. Not only has this year seen the launch of our C.drive2 eco tyre for the road, but also our new eco racing tyre, which is currently being used by the WTCC teams."


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