Vila Real WTCC joker lap is go
Alternative route in Portugal located at final turn
World championship circuit racing is set for a global first when an alternative ‘joker’ lap is used in the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Vila Real in Portugal later this month.
Designed to further spice up the action on the challenging street circuit where overtaking isn’t always possible, the FIA World Rallycross-style concept will require drivers to take an alternative route in both the Opening Race and Main Race broadcast live around the world on 25 June.
Vila Real’s ‘joker’ lap route is located at the final corner, Turn 26, with the full approval of the FIA Safety Department and local authorities. While the right/left flick through a roundabout will still be used in normal racing conditions, the alternative route will effectively take drivers the other way onto the roundabout and through a tighter left/right sequence before they re-join the start/finish straight. The alternative route is expected to take an additional two seconds, which will hand pursuing drivers ample opportunity to overtake.
However, the ‘joker’ lap cannot be taken until the third lap of either race, while drivers will be able to practice the new route during Free Practice 1 and 2 on 24 June.
The ‘joker’ lap location will be highlighted by special branding to make it visible and understandable on TV. A graphic will give viewers instant notification when the lap has been taken, while fans following live timing will be able to determine the ‘joker’ status of each driver.
François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, welcomed confirmation of the Vila Real ‘joker’ lap. “The ‘joker’ lap concept works very well in rallycross, and I’m certain it will bring an extra dimension to the WTCC street race in Vila Real. It will open up strategies for each WTCC driver, and might even change the course of the race. Of course we never compromise on safety so we have worked very closely with our colleagues at the FIA and with the authorities in Vila Real to put in place a route that matches our requirements but also conforms to all the rigorous safety standards.”
Tiago Monteiro, who claimed a hugely popular home in Vila Real last season driving for the factory Honda team, said: “It’s great to try new ideas, new options to spice up the show. When you are in pole position you don’t really want the ‘joker’ lap because you don’t want to lose your lead. But if you are not on pole position then there is a new opportunity to overtake.”
Yvan Muller, the four-time world champion and now a development driver for Cyan Racing, the team behind Volvo Polestar’s factory effort in the WTCC, said: “It’s like the WTCC MAC3 [team time trial]. Everyone said ‘ah, it’s a crazy thing’ and so on but it’s something new. And when it’s new and it shows something different, it’s always good. We have to try new things, to bring new positive and attractive elements.”
The ‘joker’ lap route remains subject to a final FIA track inspection on 21 June.
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