2014 appears to be a very important year for the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
On its tenth anniversary season, the WTCC experiences its major turning point since it kicked off at Monza in 2005.
A radical technical evolution, a few important changes in the sporting regulations and new entries in the line-up and the calendar make the next season one of the most interesting in the whole panorama of international motor sports.
The 2014 WTCC will kick off in four-month time at Marrakech, on April 6.
NEW RACING CARS
The major change is the reassessment of the technical specifications. Though the championship remained faithful to its philosophy of making eligible production cars modified for racing, the new rules leave much more freedom to designers and engineers.
The engine is the same 1.6-litre that was adopted three years ago. However, thanks to a larger restrictor (36mm against 33), its maximum output increased by more than 15%.
And yet the biggest changes concern chassis and body. The suspension scheme is no longer linked to the production model’s, but it is specifically designed for racing. The aerodynamic package includes wider fenders, a proper front splitter, a flat bottom and a larger adjustable rear wing; altogether this makes a bigger influence on the car’s set up.
The icing on the cake are the bigger 18” wheels, instead of the 17” used so far.
The final result means a better racing look and a drastic increase in performance on the track that is roughly estimated in 1.5 second per kilometre.
It’s a huge step forward compared to the original 2-litre normally aspirated Super 2000 cars that raced from 2002 to 2010 and delivered less than 300 bhp, against the 380 of the new generation.
The cars complying with the 2014 Technical Regulations have been classified as TC1, while the 1.6-litre machines that competed between 2011 and 2013 will form the TC2 class.
The older 2-litre normally aspirated cars will no longer be eligible.
NEW SPORTING RULES
With each weekend featuring two action-packed sprint races and limited track time, the WTCC is one of the more exciting series for spectators and TV viewers.
However, in observance of the principle that without innovation there is no progress, the FIA and championship promoter Eurosport Events have worked to refresh the Sporting Regulations with the aim of further enhancing the competition on track and the show on air.
With the maintenance of the top-ten reverse grid for the second race, the well established FIA point scoring system and the compensation weight for balancing the different cars’ performance, the major interventions were about start and qualifying.
The rolling start for Race 1 was dropped and now both races will have a standing start.
The Qualifying session was extended with the addition of a Q3 leg reserved for the top-five drivers classified in Q2; they will hit the track one-by-one and complete a single timed lap, to determine the first five positions on the grid for Race 1.
The arrival of Citroën as an official Manufacturer in addition to Honda and LADA, enriches the WTCC by a brand that made history in automobile industry.
The French car maker, founded in 1905 by André Citroën, has produced some revolutionary and unforgettable models such as the Traction Avant, the 2CV and the DS.
It may look strange, but although Citroën has also built itself a solid reputation in motor sports since the Fifties of the Twentieth Century, the 2014 WTCC marks its first involvement in an international circuit racing series.
On the other hand, Citroën’s factory teams have claimed a great deal of successes in rally-raids (five World titles and four victories in the Paris-Dakar) and in the World Rally Championship (nine Drivers’ and eight Manufacturers’ titles).
The Citroën Racing team will bring Sèbastien Loeb to WTCC; the nine-time World Rally champion has spent most of the 2013 season in preparation for this task, by successfully competing in the FIA GT series, the French Carrera Cup and the Macau Porsche Cup race.
Funny enough, him and the other WTCC newcomer confirmed so far, Dušan Borković, do not boast long backgrounds in racing. While Loeb built his extraordinary career in rallies, the Serbian driver has been 2011 FIA European Hill Climbing champion before switching last year to the FIA European Touring Car Cup.
The 2014 calendar includes two new racetracks: Le Castellet in France and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
A WTCC race of France was held five times in previous years, at Magny-Cours in 2005 and 2006, and at Pau from 2007 to 2009. The Circuit Paul Ricard will host the championship for the first time; however it was home to the third – and last – edition of the FIA Touring Car World Cup back in 1995. The WTCC will run on the 3.8km ‘3C’ layout.
Spa is not a new racetrack for WTCC that raced there on its first season in 2005. The circuit located in the region of the Ardennes has a long standing tradition for Touring Car competitions.
The 24 Hours of Francorchamps was reserved for this category in its golden years – from 1964 to 2000 – and was even a round of the first ever World Touring Car Championship in 1987.
Another novelty for 2014 is Suzuka. Although the Japanese track is not a new venue, having hosted WTCC events since 2011, for the first time this year the championship will run on the 5.8km International Circuit – the same used by the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix.
In all the previous visits the WTCC races were held on the 2.2km East Circuit.
2014 WTCC CALENDAR
6 April Marrakech (MAR)
20 April Le Castellet (FRA)
4 May Hungaroring (HUN)
11 May Slovakia Ring (SVK)
25 May Salzburgring (AUT)
8 June Moscow Raceway (RUS)
22 June Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
3 August Termas de Río Hondo (ARG)
14 September Sonoma (USA)
12 October Shanghai (CHN)
26 October Suzuka (JPN)
16 November Macau (MAC)