The 19th and 20th rounds of the FIA WTCC will take place in Japan, at Suzuka’s East Circuit next week. This is the fourth consecutive visit of the FIA World Touring Car Championship to the Country of the Rising Sun, however it is the first time that the WTCC Race of Japan will take place at Suzuka.
From 2008 to 2010, the championship’s Japanese event was hosted by the Okayama International Circuit, where BMW scored three victories (Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus in 2009, Colin Turkington in 2010), SEAT two (Rickard Rydell and Tom Coronel in 2008) and Chevrolet one (Rob Huff in 2010).
The switch to Suzuka was mainly due to logistics needs, however the WTCC will not run on the full 5.8-km Grand Prix track, but on the 2.2-km East Circuit, for two 23-lap races.
The last time Suzuka hosted another FIA World Championship event besides the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan was twenty-two years ago: the Suzuka 480 Kms counting towards the 1989 World Sportscar Championship.
Two weeks after the F1 Grand Prix, Suzuka will host WTCC for the first time
ONCE UPON A TIME. IN JAPAN
What Yvan Muller and Rob Huff have in common with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna?
The fact that they are racing for the same team, fighting for an FIA world championship title and facing a crucial confrontation on the Suzuka circuit in Japan.
In 1989 Prost and Senna were pretty much in the same situation; when the McLaren drivers arrived at the Japanese Grand Prix, the Frenchman was leading the championship by 16 points ahead of his team-mate who needed two victories at Suzuka and Adelaide to keep his hopes alive. On the 47th lap, while Senna was chasing Prost for the lead, the two McLaren cars made contact at the chicane.
Prost retired, while Senna rejoined and took the chequered flag first, but was later disqualified for cutting the chicane, which crowned Prost champion.
Taking into account that Muller and Huff exchanged a few attentions in some of the previous races (Porto and Donington), should we expect a similar ending at Suzuka?
Chevrolet Europe Motorsport Manager Eric Nève commented: "It is an exceptional situation to have drivers of the same team as the only title contenders. We will try and manage this in the fairest way possible by providing them the best cars and conditions to defend their chances. There won’t be any team orders. They will race each other hard, but it has to remain fair. I am sure we are going to see some exciting racing and I’m confident that Yvan and Rob will be able to avoid a close like that of the 1989 Japanese GP !"
Muller and Huff like Senna and Prost? Only Suzuka will tell.
MORE WEIGHT FOR BMW AND SUNRED
For the next WTCC event at Suzuka the BMW 320 TC and SUNRED SR León 1.6T cars will be running on heavier weights compared to the Valencia meeting.
According to the calculation of the compensation weight based on the lap times set in the three previous events (Donington, Oschersleben and Valencia), the Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T remains the reference car and will be carrying again 40 kilos in addition to the minimum weight of 1150 kg.
The gaps between the Cruze and the BMW and SUNRED cars are of 0.5 and 0.6 seconds respectively, meaning that the German machines will be laden with 20 kilos of extra weight, and the Spanish ones with 10 kg.
The Volvo C30 will run again on its minimum weight (1150 kg) just like in Valencia, while the only model allowed to a weight reduction in Japan will be the BMW 320si (-20kg).
Compensation weight Suzuka
+ 40 kg Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T
+ 20 kg BMW 320 TC
+ 10 kg SUNRED SR León 1.6T
± 0 kg Volvo C30 Drive
– 20 kg BMW 320si