WTCC set for a fast and furious Monza return

Second event of the season and the first of four in Europe

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By Olivier Ferret

22 April 2017 - 11:48
WTCC set for a fast and furious (...)

Some of the world’s best touring car drivers are set for a fast and furious adventure when the legendary Autodromo Nazionale Monza hosts FIA WTCC OSCARO Race of Italy from 28-30 April.

The most open FIA World Touring Car Championship season for nearly a decade fired up in style on the narrow streets of Marrakech, Morocco earlier this month when Esteban Guerrieri and Tiago Monteiro shared the wins. But it’s the long straights and sweeping turns of the legendary Italian Grand Prix venue that provide the latest challenge on the WTCC’s flat-out global tour.

With speeds of 200kph-plus in store, Monza offers a high-speed ride like no other as the all-action WTCC returns to Italy – and the famous 5.793-kilometre track – for the first time since 2013, when four-time world champion Yvan Muller claimed a victory double. Now a development driver for Cyan Racing, the team behind Volvo Polestar’s world championship challenge, Muller is delighted that Monza is back on the schedule. “It’s the temple of motor racing in Italy so it’s good to go on this kind of circuit,” said the seven-time Monza WTCC winner.

The WTCC’s return to Monza in 2017 is fitting as, 30 years ago, it hosted the first race of the inaugural World Touring Car Championship season. Roberto Ravaglia was the eventual champion back in 1987 and his connection to the WTCC remains strong to this day: he co-owns race-winning team ROAL Motorsport and even completed a handful of laps in driver Tom Coronel’s Chevrolet Cruze during official testing at Monza last month. “Winning the title was a long time ago but I really enjoyed this moment of my racing career,” said the Italian.
While the series reverted back to European-only status for 1988, the foundations had been laid and the WTCC name would be revived for 2005 when Andy Priaulx won the first of three straight titles.

Rob Huff is another former champion and is a big Monza fan having won twice at the venue as well as topping all four test sessions in mid-March. “It’s brilliant, just spectacular, I love it,” he said. “When you drive in through the park it’s just beautiful. It’s been sorely missed and it’s going to provide some fantastic racing – it always did and always will.”

Following Free Practice, Qualifying and the Manufacturers Against the Clock (WTCC MAC3) team time trial on Saturday 29 April, Sunday’s Opening Race covers nine laps from 12h15 local time with the 11-lap Main Race following at 14h15. There’s extensive live coverage on Eurosport and other networks around the world, while free admission tickets are available to download at Event Presenting Partner OSCARO’s Italian market website, OSCARO.it.

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS

*Second event of the season and the first of four in Europe. Tiago Monteiro tops the standings, seven points ahead of Honda team-mate Norbert Michelisz followed by Volvo Polestar’s Nicky Catsburg and top privateer Mehdi Bennani. It’s closer in the makes’ standings with Honda and Volvo Polestar equal on 96 points, while Bennani and Sébastien Loeb Racing team-mate Tom Chilton are level-pegging in the WTCC Trophy for independent racers

*The Monza weekend marks the official launch of eSports WTCC, the championship’s inaugural esports competition organised in partnership with RaceRoom

*The WTCC’s established feeder series, the FIA European Touring Car Cup, plus the FIA Formula 3 European Championship top the support bill

DRIVER NEWS

*Factory teams Honda and Volvo Polestar both feature tweaked driver line-ups for 2017. Japanese racer Ryo Michigami replaces Rob Huff at Honda where he will partner Norbert Michelisz and Tiago Monteiro. Thed Björk gets two new team-mates: Nicky Catsburg and Néstor Girolami, while Yvan Muller has signed as a development driver for partner team Cyan Racing

*Huff has returned to ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport after three years away to drive the German team’s Citroën C-Elysée WTCC. Mehdi Bennani and Tom Chilton continue in Sébastien Loeb Racing-run Citroëns and welcome new team-mate John Filippi

*There will be family pride at stake for rookie racers Yann Ehrlacher and Aurélien Panis. Ehrlacher is the nephew of four-time world champion Yvan Muller, while Panis’s father Olivier won the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix and commentates on Eurosport France’s WTCC coverage

*Panis will partner Dániel Nagy at Zengő Motorsport, while Ehrlacher joins new team RC Motorsport

*Esteban Guerrieri has secured a partial programme with Campos Racing with work underway to make it a full-season deal following his maiden win last time out in Morocco

*Like Guerrieri, Tom Coronel will be Chevrolet Cruze-mounted in 2017 after he extended his long-term agreement with inaugural WTCC champion Roberto Ravaglia’s ROAL Motorsport team

THEY SAID WHAT?

Thed Björk (Polestar Cyan Racing): “It’s a fantastic track which I have raced on before in F3000. It’s fantastic because of the culture and history but also because it’s fast and challenging, and it has the high speed that makes you love motor racing. It’s a great place and when you get the Ascari chicane right it feels good.”

Tiago Monteiro (Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team): “Racing at Monza is a fantastic experience because of the fans but I’m not particularly a big fan of the long straights, hard braking and chicanes. I love the story behind Monza and the park location but we might not be as competitive as we are at other tracks although we’ll prepare for that.”

John Filippi (Sébastien Loeb Racing): “I know the track from the TV and PlayStation but the [official] test meant I could discover it for real. The first time I saw a grand prix was at Monza and I know all the names of all the corners from watching on TV and playing on PlayStation, but it’s totally different when you drive there for real. You think the track is just some long straights with a few corners but it’s actually very technical and you have to be precise with your driving, braking, throttle, everything. You need to take care to have a good set-up because the tyre degradation could be a problem, but we worked a lot during the two days of testing.”

Esteban Guerrieri (Campos Racing): “It’s been a long time since I raced there but I know it well and I love driving there. It’s one of those tracks that gives you the feeling you get when you go to places like Silversone and Spa. I’m excited when I am going there and with all the cars around I know the racing will be good. I speak Italian and I love the food and hopefully we can be fast.”

MONZA FAST FACTS

*The inaugural WTCC season began in 1987 with the controversial Monza 500. BMW drivers, including eventual champion Roberto Ravaglia, filled the top six places but were excluded when their M3s were found to be underweight. Allan Moffatt and John Harvey (Holden VL Commodore SS) inherited the outright win but as they were not eligible for WTCC points, Italians Walter Voulaz and Marcello Cipriani top-scored in their Alfa Romeo 75

*German BMW driver Dirk Müller made history when he won the first WTCC race of the new era at Monza in April 2005, taking the honours in the first of two races. James Thompson won Race 2 for Alfa Romeo, while Andy Priaulx, who would go on to win the championship, came away with a fourth and fifth place

*Thompson was in the wars when the WTCC visited Monza for the last time in 2013 after his then LADA team-mate Aleksei Dudukalo missed his braking for the first chicane during qualifying and slammed straight into the side of the Briton’s car

*While Monza’s famous banking hasn’t been used in race mode since 1969, it still gets an airing thanks to the annual Monza Rally Show, won in 2016 by MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi

*The 1971 Italian Grand Prix is famous for its dramatic finish when the top five were separated by sixth tenths of a second. Peter Gethin beat Ronnie Peterson to victory by 0.01s

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