Following a five-week break after the previous race meeting at Suzuka, the 21st and 22nd rounds of the FIA WTCC will take place at Shanghai, China next week. This is the third consecutive visit of the World Championship to Mainland China and Shanghai.
After the series raced at the short Tianma racetrack in 2011, since last year it’s the modern Shanghai International Circuit that hosts the WTCC Race of China.
The circuit was inaugurated in 2004 and has been home to the Formula One Grand Prix of China since.
The WTCC will use a shorter layout compared to Formula One. This 4.6km circuit features a shortcut that links Turn 4 to the exit of Turn 8, cutting out 850 metres of the Grand Prix track. The two WTCC races will be held on the distance of 13 laps.
Just like in previous years, the WTCC will share the event with the China Touring Car Championship.
A FIELD OF THIRTY-ONE CARS AT SHANGHAI
The addition of Thed Björk’s Volvo C30 and the participation of six competitors of the Asia Trophy, has boosted the WTCC field to a season-record of thirty-one cars.
With the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships that have already found their winners, focus switches on the fights for the trophies.
In the Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy, bamboo-engineering’s James Nash defends his current leadership from his team-mate Alex MacDowall who has to recover a gap of 32 points while 66 are still at stake.
RML is just one step away from clinching the Yokohama Team’s Trophy; its current leading margin of 78 points, when 108 are still to be awarded, does not leave much hope for a recovery to bamboo-engineering.
In the Asia Trophy, Yukinori Taniguchi who is leading after the first event at Suzuka, will race in China with a Campos Racing SEAT car against a group of five drivers from Macau.
Song Veng Racing Team’s Jerónimo Badaraco is the best placed of the five Macanese drivers, followed by Ng Kin Veng of China Racing and Ho Wai Kun of Liqui Moly Team Engstler.
TANIGUCHI TO DEFEND ASIA TROPHY LEAD
In a last-minute move, Yukinori Taniguchi has signed with Campos Racing to drive the Spanish team’s third SEAT León car at Shanghai.
The Japanese driver had made his first appearance of the season in the previous race meeting at Suzuka, replacing Fredy Barth in the Wiechers-Sport BMW 320si.
Taniguchi finished both races in second place of the Asia Trophy and emerged as the first leader with 16 points, one and three more that his fellow countrymen Masaki Kano and Takuya Izawa respectively.
HONDA CONFIRMS DRIVERS FOR 2014
Honda has confirmed that current drivers Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro will be retained for the 2014 FIA WTCC campaign.
Hideo Sato, General Manager of Honda’s Motor Sports Division commented: “Always with a new car and a new programme there is many areas to work on and always we are against the clock. Thanks to the driving skill, experience and technical knowledge of Gabriele and Tiago and their hard work with the team, we have made great progress very quickly this year. They have both been fighting to get the Honda Civic WTCC into the results and to have won races and many podium positions is a great result. For 2014, I expect the regulations changes will create an exciting and dynamic racing season. I am confident that our two experienced drivers, who have intimate knowledge of the Civic, will be key to our success. I am very pleased to have them in the Honda Racing family for 2014 which will be another competitive season for sure.”
Tarquini, who is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship, said: “I am proud of the long relationship I have had with Honda, from the British Touring Car Championship times until today. We have such a good team spirit and everybody is working for one thing and that is to win the races. We have developed this car into a winner and soon we will start with the 2014 car so to see Honda renew its confidence in me is a great reward.”
And Monteiro echoed: “It is a great honour for me to have been involved in this project since the beginning and actively participate in the development of the Honda Civic WTCC which has become a highly competitive and winning car. Working with the whole Honda Team is a privilege at all levels. For 2014 I want to continue the good work we have been developing with the team and Gabriele and achieve many more podiums. I’m already looking forward to the start of the new season.”
NEW HONDA CIVIC FOR MICHELISZ IN 2014
Following Honda’s announcement about the confirmation of drivers for 2014, Zengö Motorsport announced that it will run again one Civic car for Norbert Michelisz next year.
The Hungary-based team will be entrusted with one of the cars built by JAS Motorsport according to the new technical specifications.
2014 will mark the fifth season for Zengö Motorsport and Michelisz in WTCC. Together they have won three races and the 2012 Yokohama Trophy. Michelisz, who is currently sixth in the Drivers’ Championship is one of the only two drivers – together with Tarquini – who won WTCC races for three different car manufacturers: SEAT (Macau 2010), BMW (Hungary 2012) and Honda (Japan 2013).
“I’m very happy with having the possibility to continue with Zengö Motorsport and Honda. With the experience we built up since 2010 and the help from JAS Motorsport and Honda I am confident we’ll have the potential to fight for top positions in 2014,” Michelisz said.
CHARLES NG: TOP-TEN IS MY GOAL
Charles Ng was born in Hong Kong and, together with Darryl O’Young, he is one of the two Chinese drivers who take part in the whole WTCC season. Therefore, the WTCC event at Shanghai may be considered the home race meeting for the 29-year old driver of the Liqui Moly Team Engstler.
This is your second full season in the WTCC. Are you happy with your results so far?
“Yes, I am happy with my performance so far as I have met my short term goals: entering Q2 at Moscow and finishing in on the Yokohama Trophy podium in Japan. My teammate Franz Engstler is a very experienced driver and a WTCC race winner, I am glad that we always have some close but friendly competitions. I won some and he won some!”
Since you joined the championship in the two final events of 2011, you have been racing with Liqui Moly Team Engstler. How do you find yourself with them?
“There have been definitely ups and downs, and honestly I think we as a BMW team are fighting in the hardest times in the recent two years, since I joined the championship. However, the team and I never give up and we always try to keep our head up and work harder for better results. And I thank a lot Liqui Moly for taking me under their wing.”
Before WTCC you have been mostly active in drifting. How much did you have to adapt your driving style for the switch?
“I was in the Formula Drift USA Pro Championship, but prior to that I won the Asian Touring Car Series in 2010 before I took a break from racing. It was definitely not easy making the transition from drifting to racing or the other way around. I know there are a lot of pro drivers who were successful in one field that could not make a smooth transition to another. I have always been an entertainer style of driver and that is what drifting is all about: a show. In WTCC, I’d have to keep my cool and perform as consistently as possible. So racing is a mental challenge, I like it and I feel honoured and privileged to be racing against some of the best touring car drivers in the world!”
In the previous event, at Suzuka, you have claimed your best result ever in WTCC, finishing seventh in the second race after a
close fight with 2012 World Champion Rob Huff. It was the perfect timing as this came just before your home race. What are your expectations for Shanghai?
“It sure had been a long coming, I finally claimed a podium finish for the Yokohama Trophy and the feeling was ecstatic! Not to mention beating Huff at the last corner! My expectations for Shanghai would be to finish once again in the top ten like I did for the past two years, and hopefully another Yokohama Trophy podium. There’s something about Shanghai that I have always done well in the past, let’s hope the great results will carry on for this year!”
Motor sports in general and touring cars are becoming more and more popular in China. What is your feeling about the popularity of the WTCC and CTCC joint event?
“There are many benefits to a joint event, and one of them is that the fans can truly experience the close fighting and atmosphere of a world class series. And as far as I know a lot of the CTCC drivers are also big fans of WTCC. I am already very much looking forward to meeting and performing in front of the Chinese fans at the Shanghai International Circuit!”
EUROSPORT TV PROGRAMMES *
Saturday, 2 November – 07.30 / 08.15 : Qualifying, LIVE on Eurosport 1
Sunday, 3 November – 08.25 / 10.15 : Races 1 & 2, LIVE on Eurosport 1
Tuesday, 5 November – 23.15 : Inside WTCC, on Eurosport 1
* all times CET
MORE TEST FOR LADA SPORT IN FRANCE
The LADA Sport Lukoil team spent three days testing at Magny-Cours with James Thompson; the English driver tried new technical features for the Granta WTCC car in view of the new technical regulations that will come into force next year.
During the tests the team was especially focusing on new solutions for the suspension.
Team principal Victor Shapovalov explained: “We are free to design the suspension to fit our needs, and that is the good point. The evolution of the LADA Granta will have completely different suspension and kinematics. We are trying different solutions to significantly improve drivability and at the same time we are building the new WTCC cars at LADA Sport production facilities in Togliatti. We have planned to run the first test mid-February in 2014.”
Race engineer Marco Calovolo added: “The current rules have been limiting our engineering possibilities; it was not possible to change some components in order to compensate the small size of our car. The new regulations provide us with more room for engineering intervention. The 2014 LADA Granta will be wider and we will be able to adjust something in the suspension. The crucial point is to find the best balance. The engine will be more powerful, brakes will be bigger, there will be more downforce, the car will be lighter, and the fundamental thing is to have an easy adjustable car.”