Rob Huff has the best winning record in Macau for WTCC, and in today’s test session he proved once again that he is always the man to beat on the Guia circuit.
In the late stages of the session, the 2012 World Champion drove his ALL-INKL.COM SEAT León car to clock the fastest time of 2:32.169, a mark that he improved further to 2:32.147 on the following lap.
The dying moments of the session provided plenty of improvements. Norbert Michelisz’s Honda Civic set the second fastest lap of 2:32.218, beating Yvan Muller’s Chevrolet Cruze (2:32.372) and the other Honda of Tiago Monteiro (2:32.693).
Pepe Oriola ranked in fifth (2:32.780) with Stefano D’Aste in sixth (2:33.314) and best of the BMW drivers and the Yokohama Trophy competitors, despite an early collision with Campos Racing’s newcomer Konstantins Calko at Moorish bend.
Chilton, Coronel, Thompson and Bennani rounded out the top ten. Michael Soong topped the Asia Trophy competitors in 22nd position overall, followed by Henry Ho in 23rd.
A few drivers had moments: Mak Ka Lok spun at the ‘R’ bend, Franz Engstler brushed the wall and was forced to pit for repairs, Yukinori Taniguchi crashed heavily into the wall at the Reservoir bend, which caused the session being red-flagged.
Friday will see the WTCC field take to the track for two thirty-minute Free Practice sessions, before the two-stage Qualifying begins at 15.35 local time (8.35 CET).
HUFF: I WANT TO LEAVE WITH A VICTORY
Rob Huff was extremely happy when he came back to the Münnich Motorsport garage at the end of the test session.
“It’s the first time I’m back on top since I won the race in Budapest earlier this year. It was a good couple of laps and the car felt good. It’s just a test today, but obviously this makes us confident. I’m very pleased for the team, as I can see that now they are smiling…”
This is Huff’s last race meeting with the German team before moving to LADA Sport for next year.
“Of course I want to leave them on a high note. It has been a wonderful year for me. These guys make an absolutely fantastic and loving team. I was welcomed with open arms and was impressed throughout the season by the way they cared of me and my car. I really would like to thank them with a victory here.”
TWO NEW DRIVERS JOIN CAMPOS RACING
Spanish outfit Campos Racing signed two new drivers to complete the three-car line-up for the WTCC final race meeting this weekend at Macau.
Konstantins Calko and Michael Soong have joined the team’s regular Hugo Valente; they both are newcomers to the WTCC.
Calko, 19-year old from Latvia is the first Baltic driver to appear in WTCC. After claiming a number of victories in karting, including two national titles and a third position in the 2010 European Championship, the young Latvian proved successful in car racing as well.
After being sacred Baltic Touring Car champion in 2011, he won last year the title of the Radical Masters Euroseries.
Soong, from Hong Kong, will replace Fernando Monje; although he also faces his WTCC debut, the 33-year old driver has built himself a solid touring car experience winning races in the Hong Kong and the China championships.
In the current season he took part in the China Touring Car championship at the wheel of a Kia K2 and ranked twelfth in the Super Production class.
DRIVERS IMPRESSED BY NEW CONTROL TOWER
Wednesday of the race week in Macau is usually dedicated to gather competitors of the main races – WTCC, F3 and Motorcycling GP – and offer photo opportunities to the press.
This year drivers and riders posed for pictures under the new Race Control Tower of the Guia Circuit, that was built in the latest months and replaced the previous building that dated back to 1993.
Between the end of the current year and the beginning of 2014, the whole Grand Prix building that includes garages, offices and the media centre will be demolished and a new one will be erected in time for next year’s event.
All the drivers were much impressed by the new Race Control facilities.
DRIVERS MEET MACAU SCHOOL CHILDREN
After the pictures in the pit lane, all drivers and riders boarded on buses to reach the glamorous Venetian Macau-Hotel Resort where they visited a collection of stunning classic automobiles and motorcycles celebrating the heritage of the Macau Grand Prix.
There they took part in an autograph session for the benefit of a group of children from the local School of Nations of Macau and the Macau Portuguese School.
WORLDWIDE TV COVERAGE FROM MACAU
The FIA WTCC Guia Race of Macau will benefit from a large worldwide TV coverage once again, including live broadcasts in Europe, the Asia Pacific region, Africa and the Americas.
European WTCC fans will have to set their alarm clock for an early wake up to follow the season’s finale on Eurosport – Europe’s largest sports channel – that will cover live the qualifying session on Friday, 15th November at 8:30am (CET) and the two races on Sunday, 17th November at 4:00am and 5:00am (CET) respectively.
In Macau and Mainland China eight free to air television broadcasters will air both races live at 11:00am and 12:00 (noon) local time respectively: TDM, Macau Cable TV, TVB, Guangdong TV, CSPN Network (that includes Shandong Sports TV, Xinjiang Sports TV and Jiangxi TV, Channel 6). On top of this, CCTV 5, Chinas’ state broadcaster, will show highlights of the event within its ‘Auto times’ magazine on Wednesday of the week after the event.
Pan-regional broadcasters such as Eurosport Asia and FOX/Star Sports will also show the races in the Asia Pacific region in addition to the 88 broadcasters reaching 188 countries around the world.
For those in the Americas, Speed 2 Channel in North America and Fox in Latin America will be broadcasting both races on a delayed basis, while Mexican broadcaster Viva Sports, through their network in Latin America, will broadcast both races live.
FOR HAVEN’S SAKE
Eurosport commentator and touring car expert Martin Haven’s column.
Macau preview – Celebration Day
The Macau Grand Prix reaches a huge milestone this year, celebrating its 60th Anniversary. For any event, that would be reason for celebration but for any motor-race – let alone a street race, for both cars AND motorcycles, held in a tiny city, leased by a foreign power, then returned to China – it’s truly astonishing!
To put 1954 – the year in which the race was first held – into perspective, the Korean War had just finished, Dwight D Eisenhower was President of the USA and Bill Haley and the Comets released Rock Around The Clock.
The event, of course, is also the venue for the season finale of the FIA WTCC and the carnival atmosphere, combined with the passion of the fans and organisers for the event, ensures that Macau is a firm favourite with teams and drivers.
The track itself is quite some challenge. Broken into essentially two halves, it combines a tight, twisty mountain circuit that’s a pitching, diving roller-coaster with the harbourside section, which is wide, open and all-but flat-out.
The entire 6km length of the track is lined with unforgiving walls, waiting to trap the unwary. Imagine Monaco, combined with the fastest parts of Monza and you have an idea of the challenge the drivers face. Simply surviving two races in Macau is quite some achievement.
The Championship has been decided here nearly every season before this and Macau will still see the Yokohama Trophy Champion crowned, as well as the final Championship positions decided.
In both title races, James Nash is a front-runner. He looks most likely to add the Yokohama Trophy to his BTCC Independent’s title and is still in the running to be championship runner-up. He’ll have to overhaul Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Chilton, however and both men are likely to be highly competitive around the streets of Macau.
The final race weekend for the current WTCC format is sure to be a cracker – the street circuit always produces fireworks, with plenty of close racing, incident and accident. It’s must-see racing and the perfect way to celebrate the end of another great WTCC season.