Upgrade package for 2016 WTCC
WTCC calendar blends the old with the new
The FIA World Touring Car Championship will undergo an exciting revamp for 2016 with a new race format, a tweaked schedule of events, a revised compensation weight calculation and an increased prize fund for independent racers all part of a package of measures designed to upgrade the WTCC.
Along with the Tour de France-inspired Manufacturers Against the Clock (MAC3) team trial concept announced on 2 October, the changes above were rubberstamped at the meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris earlier today (Wednesday) and will signal an action-packed future for the championship.
Introducing the Opening Race and Main Race
While the much-revered twin race format remains, the structure will change for next season. Gone are Race 1 and Race 2 and in their place come Opening Race and Main Race. And in another highly-anticipated rule tweak, the grid for the Opening Race will be decided by the results of Qualifying Q2 with the fastest 10 drivers lining up in reverse order. The grid for the Main Race will follow the combined qualifying classification order with the battle for the DHL Pole Position Award being fought out by the five drivers contesting the Qualifying Q3 shootout. In order to further increase the importance of the Main Race, the distance will be extended by one lap with the exception of Nürburgring Nordschleife Main Race, which, like the Opening Race at the German track, will be run over three laps. The changes will ensure each race weekend builds up to a dramatic climax with fans trackside and watching on television and online waiting until the end of the day for the ‘big’ event. Furthermore, the spectacle of the Opening Race will be enhanced with independent racers still getting their shot at the victory as the factory drivers weigh up the pros and cons of pushing all-out for early success from lower down the starting order or waiting to chase the win from what is likely to be a more favourable grid slot in the Main Race.
François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter: “We never found it easy to explain to fans, media and guests the Race 1/Race 2 concept, with the poleman not starting on the front row for the last race of the weekend. Together with the FIA, manufacturers, teams and drivers, we took the collective decision to simplify the race format. The objective is to increase the spectacle and make the structure of the weekend easier to explain by ensuring we leave the best to last, which is the case with the vast majority of sports. At the same time, it was very important to keep the reverse grid format for what is now the Opening Race.”
WTCC calendar blends the old with the new
The provisional WTCC calendar for 2016 will blend legendary racetracks with similarly excellent, albeit newer facilities. Formula One venues past and present – Circuit Paul Ricard and Hungaroring – appear on the roster early season along with the Slovakia Ring. There will be two street circuits (the new Hermann Tilke-designed FIA Grade II track in Marrakech and Vila Real in Portugal) to test WTCC drivers’ skill and judgement and a highly anticipated return to the infamous Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany to check out just how brave they are. Following the summer break, WTCC engines will fire up again in Termas de Río Hondo, Argentina – home race of recently-crowned double world champion José María López – in early August. Twin Ring Motegi, host venue of Japan’s MotoGP round and where the overtaking barely stopped during the WTCC’s first visit this year, signals the start of a tour of Asia. The Shanghai International Circuit, home of the Chinese Grand Prix, showcases the WTCC to the world’s largest population and online community, while the Chang International Circuit in Buriram takes the WTCC to Thailand for another twilight event. Meanwhile, the Qatar night race spectacular in late November brings the curtain down on the 2016 campaign. Eleven events are included on the provisional calendar although it is the intention to increase to 12 once all agreements for a new season-opening round have been reached. Providing it goes ahead, that would mean 24 races, 12 DHL pole position shootouts and 12 MAC3 contests.
François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter: “The intention is for the calendar to have 12 events but the agreement with the potential new venue is not there yet. Providing all elements of the deal fall into place we hope to announce the final calendar with 12 weekends prior to the Christmas break. Otherwise, we have kept the same venues in a number of key markets that provide the challenge and prestige we crave, plus the variety.”
FIA World Touring Car Championship provisional calendar 2016
— 20 March 2016: Spare date TBD
— 3 April 2016: FIA WTCC Race of France (Circuit Paul Ricard)
— 17 April 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Slovakia (Slovakia Ring)
— 24 April 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Hungary (Hungaroring)
— 8 May 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Morocco (Circuit Moulay El Hassan, Marrakech) S
— 28 May 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Germany (Nürburgring Nordschleife)
— 12 June 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Portugal (Circuito Internacional de Vila Real) S
— 7 August 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Argentina (Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo)*
— 4 September 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Japan (Twin Ring Motegi)
— 25 September 2016: FIA WTCC Race of China (Shanghai International Circuit)
— 6 November 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Thailand (Chang International Circuit)*
— 27 November 2016: FIA WTCC Race of Qatar (Losail International Circuit) N
S Indicates street race N Indicates Night Race
*Pending signature of event agreement. The addition of a 12th event remains pending
The weight increases in the WTCC
Cars from the winning WTCC manufacturer will begin the 2016 season with a maximum 80 kilograms of additional weight rather than the current 60. What is effectively success ballast will be recalculated after each event with the first weight adjustment based on performance to be applied at the third event of the season.
Bigger prize fund for independent racers
Privateer drivers contesting the 2016 WTCC will benefit from an increased prize fund with €500,000 to be shared out during the course of the season, twice as much as in 2015. Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, has pledged the additional amount to provide extra financial support to the independent drivers and their teams.
Shorter non-European weekends in store
As part of ongoing efforts to reduce costs, the WTCC events taking place outside Europe will be run over two days compared to the current three with two sessions of Free Practice taking place on the opening day of the weekend followed by Qualifying and two races on day two. The traditional 30-minute test will only be scheduled at the European events although a shakedown or systems check session behind the safety car will be arranged at all overseas rounds.
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