The 2012 WTCC season got under way yesterday, with five one-hour test sessions and the Chevrolet team made very clear from the start that the Cruze is still the car to beat.
Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu topped the time lists in all the sessions they took part in.
The reigning champion set the day’s best lap of 1:58.022 in the last test, Huff second fastest (1:58.035) and Menu third (1:58.406).
Alex MacDowall was an impressive fourth (1:58.415) in the bamboo-engineering car, completing a Chevrolet quartet ahead of the pack and topping the Yokohama Trophy.
Gabriele Tarquini emerged as the best of the rest, with the fifth fastest lap of 1:58.643 in his Lukoil Racing SEAT León; the Italian was just a bit faster that Rickard Rydell’s Swedish Chevrolet (1:58.916).
BMW drivers Tom Coronel (1:59.107) and Franz Engstler (1:59.936) were also able to break the two-minute wall.
Which has not yet been smashed by the Ford Focus cars, although Tom Chilton improved to 2:00.361, one and half second faster than he had been in the morning.
WTCC drivers will hit the track again tomorrow morning.

Reigning champion Yvan Muller and his Chevrolet were fastest in Thursday’s test

The WTCC Race of Portugal will take place at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve and not at the Estoril as it was originally planned.
The switch, motivated by logistics reasons, was approved today by the World Motor Sport Council. The date of the event remains the same, June 3.
The circuit close to Portimão had already hosted a WTCC event back in 2010, when local hero Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini won one race apiece for SEAT.
"I am very pleased to go back there," said championship promoter Marcello Lotti. "The track layout suits very well touring car competitions and in 2010 we had two exciting races. And a very good crowd as well."
The circuit CEO Paulo Pinheiro echoed: "We are delighted to host the WTCC once again. This is the coronation of a three-year work that we have done to develop the track and its facilities. The WTCC event in 2010 was a major success and we are sure that this year’s race meeting will be even better, thanks to the manufacturers‘ participation and the fact that Tiago Monteiro is one of the top drivers in the championship."

WTCC’s first ever visit to the Algarve circuit dates back to 2010

SEAT’s motorsport department confirmed their commitment in support of customer teams, for which the VW Group’s 1.6-litre turbo engine was adapted for use in the León WTCC racing car.
SEAT Sport are currently hard at work preparing the engines for installation by the customer teams. The introduction of the engine will be phased in during the season for those drivers who confirmed participation very late.
Which is why Tom Boardman (STR) will only appear on the second event at Valencia, while Tiago Monteiro (Tuenti Racing Team) and Andrea Barlesi (SUNRED Engineering) have been authorized by the FIA Touring Car Committee to race in Monza with León TDi cars.
"We are very happy with the customer teams in WTCC. We will go all-out to support them and take enormous pleasure in their racing successes," said Dr. Matthias Rabe, SEAT’s Vice President for Research and Development. "Motorsport is deeply embedded in SEAT’s DNA and also ongoing proof of our technical expertise. The fans of our brand are thrilled by every single exciting race."
SEAT Sport is supporting the customer teams with extensive assistance, and specialists from SEAT Sport will be on-site at each event.

Minimum weights for the newly homologated cars – Ford Focus S2000 TC and SEAT León WTCC – have been set at 1150 kilos.
However, following a decision from the Touring Car Committee, the Ford cars were imposed a 30 kilos of ballast for the Monza event.
Team Aon were also instructed to make changes to suspension and axles before the third event at Marrakech.

The starting weights for the different models at Monza are:
– 1200 kg: Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T (1160 + 40)
– 1180 kg: Ford Focus S2000 TC (1150 + 30)
– 1160 kg BMW 320 TC
– 1150 kg SEAT León WTCC; SEAT León TDi

Brandon Kraus, the winner of the 2011 United States Touring Car Championship, completed his first runs in a WTCC car yesterday and today at the wheel of a Proteam Racing BMW 320 TC.
The test was part of the agreement between championship promoters Marcello Lotti (WTCC) and Ali Arsham (USTCC) that will also see the American series racing at the WTCC event at Sonoma on September 23rd.
It was at the Sonoma circuit that Kraus secured the 2011 USTCC title and the Californian driver is already looking forward to the WTCC visiting his home track. Kraus was also impressed by his visit to Monza, where he was sixth fastest in today’s second test session together with the ETCC competitors.
"It was really good out there," he said after the test. "The crew worked really hard and, although we had a few problems yesterday, we picked it up today and I had a great time. What a fun track! The WTCC cars are really something, they were pulling five or six car lengths on me after every turn. I’m going to talk to a few sponsors and see if I can get a ride at Sonoma and maybe somewhere else as well. I’m addicted!"

Under blue skies and on a dry track, a total of twenty drivers took part in the two one-hour test sessions ahead of this weekend’s pair of ETCC races. Fastest in the opening session was the Krenek Motorsport BMW 320si of Petr Fulín, while it was the SUNRED Engineering SEAT Leon TDI of Fernando Monje which was quickest in the second session.
In session 1, Fulín set a time of 2:02.404 with Monje second fastest (2:02.901) and Igor Skuz third quickest in another BMW (2:04.530). The fastest of the Single-make series cars was the SEAT León of Stian Paulsen (2:05.420) while the Super 1600 Cup entrants were headed by Kevin Krammes‘ Ford Fiesta ST (2:20.162)
In session 2, it was the turn of Monje to top the timesheets, with a time of 2:01.849. Fulín had to settle for second-best this time (2:02.035) while it was the SEAT of Paulsen that was third fastest (2:04.425). The second test session saw two of the Super Production Cup entrants take to the Monza circuit, with the quicker of the two being the Honda Civic Type-R of Aleksandar Tosic (2:13.564). In the Super 1600 Cup, this time it was the Fiesta of Ulrike Krafft that set the fastest time (2:21.548).

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