The Citroën Racing team continues its approaching march to the 2014 FIA World Touring Car Championship.
The French team spent five days of testing at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit with its three drivers – Yvan Muller, Sébastien Loeb and José-María López taking turns at the wheel of a single C-Elysée car.
López opened the test on Friday and Saturday, Loeb took over on Sunday and Monday, while Muller drove on Tuesday. The reigning WTCC champion ran into one of the very rare rainy days of the Arab Emirates.
“With only one hour of completely dry track in the evening, we could not really accomplish all we had planned. So we better focused on the car’s set up and balance,” Muller said.
On Monday evening, at the end of the test, the team invited Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi, World Rally Championship competitor and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Racing, to drive the C-Elysée for a few laps.
Sébastien Loeb is now flying to Argentina for testing at Termas de Río Hondo, at the wheel a car from a local touring car series.
TARQUINI: MANUFACTURERS’ TITLE IS PRIORITY
Gabriele Tarquini is not especially happy to be called the doyen of WTCC.
In 2014 he will turn 52, facing his tenth season in the world championship and his 25th in touring car racing. And yet, his spirit and ambitions are still those of a young driver.
He is one of the most successful WTCC drivers, with 19 race victories, 17 pole positions, one World title (2009) and three second places (2008, 2010 and 2013) in the Drivers’ Championship.
Now he looks at the 2014 season – his second with Honda Castrol Racing – with clear ideas and his natural optimism.
“It will be interesting. The new technical rules have reshuffled the cards. We all restart from scratch and nobody knows the new scale of values. There is little doubt that Citroën will benefit from an advantage coming from six months of testing that are crucial for fine tuning and reliability. However, they don’t have terms of comparison for the performance, which makes their advantage not so big. And furthermore, they are newcomers in the championship. A very professional team, used to win, but like everybody else they need a period of apprenticeship. Therefore I am confident, because in 2013 we focused on finding the right cohesion in the team between the Japanese and Italian branches. And this will result in a strong, common effort towards victory.”
The Italian is thrilled by the idea of driving the new-spec car.
“More power and speed make a driver happy! Though I don’t feel the new cars will be more difficult to drive, because more sophisticated aerodynamics and suspension, bigger brakes and more tyre on the track will compensate for the increase of power. For sure the cars have gained sex appeal and this may attract new fans, like those who said that the previous generation of cars was too close to the production models. I think that on the track we need to be more cautious in making side-to-side contacts, because the suspension are more fragile. And maybe overtaking will be more difficult because of higher speeds and shorter braking spaces.”
The Honda Castrol Racing team will soon start testing the new car.
“The original plan was to start testing earlier with an hybrid Civic. And finally it was decided to wait for the full new-spec machine, because Honda R&D and JAS Motorsport have enough skill and experience to design and develop a competitive car from a blank page. And I can’t wait to start testing, because I wish to give my contribution in telling the technicians which way to go for the technical development.”
Besides Citroën, Honda will face LADA and the RML-built cars during the season.
“By signing Huff, LADA made clear they want to invest on the championship and the new car. The new technical regulations will help them to compensate for the weak points of the production model. They already had one of the most powerful engines. Now the team has gained experience and they have two top drivers. I bet they will surprise a lot of people. As for RML, they proved they can win without the backing of a manufacturer. I would be very surprise if the new Cruze won’t be on top from the start.”
And what are Tarquini’s ambitions for the coming season?
“I am aware that we face a bunch of strong competitors, especially Citroën’s dream team that benefit from vast resources. However, I don’t feel defeated. I’m still among the fastest drivers and hope I have not… aged too much during this Christmas break. As a matter of fact I still feel very young and fit! My personal goal is to improve last year’s result… that would mean to be World Champion for the second time. But more than this, our priority is winning the Manufacturers’ Championship once again.”
ONYX AND ARLINGTON JOIN FOR WTCC
Onyx Race Engineering and Arlington Industries Group announced they have joined forces to compete in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.
The parties announced they have embarked upon a five year programme to design, manufacture and race in WTCC starting from the 2014 season. The car they will develop in compliance with the new technical regulations and the driver line-up are due to be announced shortly.
Mike Earle, CEO Onyx Race Engineering, commented: “This association is exciting. It is a unique opportunity to assemble such a strong automotive group with the common intention of success in the finest touring car championship in the World.”
Onyx Race Engineering boasts an outstanding record in automobile sports that dates back to the team’s early successes in F3, F2 and Formula 3000 in the Eighties that culminated in Stefano Modena’s title in the 1987 FIA F3000 Championship. Later on, Onyx moved to Formula One for a couple of seasons (1989 and 1990). More recently Mike Earle (pictured) has managed Arena Motorsport campaigns in the British Touring Car Championships and the 2012 WTCC.
Arlington Industries Group is a privately held Industrial Investment Vehicle with interests in Industrial Coatings, Aerospace, and Automotive Manufacturing.
HUFF AIMS FOR VICTORY AT DUBAI
Rob Huff, Marc Basseng and René Münnich team up once again this weekend for the Dubai 24 Hours race.
The trio shares the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport 2012 FIA GT1-winning Mercedes-Benz SLS GT3 in the A6-Pro class.
Huff – who joined the LADA Sport Lukoil team for the 2014 WTCC – has been eager to expand his horizons by building a career in sportscars racing, having been inspired by his recent success in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and his upcoming prototype debut in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
“My sportscars campaign is really gathering momentum and will be a fantastic sideline to my full-time programme with LADA Sport in the WTCC,” said Huff. “I had a fantastic season racing with ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport throughout 2013. We surpassed all expectations and I’m delighted to be reuniting with the team for the 24 Hours of Dubai. With their exceptional record of winning the FIA GT1 World Championship title, I believe we can take the victory this weekend.”
Huff, Basseng and Münnich qualified in 12th position for the race. Better than them was Darryl O’Young who drives a Craft Racing Aston Martin Vantage and will start from seventh on the grid.
Amongst the other competitors in the Dubai 24 Hours are European Touring Car Cup racers Andreas Pfister and Patrick Wolf, who share a SEAT León Supercópa car and set the second fastest lap in the A3T class, just ahead of the Racing Divas Schubert BMW 320D of the all-female team that includes Paulien Zwart, Tom Coronel’s wife.
WTCC CARS GET BACK HOME
The long trip back for the WTCC cars came to an end a few days ago, fifty after the 2013 championship’s final race meeting at Macau.
The cars and parts where shipped from Hong Kong harbour on the 25th November, the cargo ship docked in Rotterdam only a few days ago and then the containers were shipped to Antwerp.
In the latest two days all the teams have sent their trucks to Antwerp to collect their stuffs and bring everything back to their workshops.