While the F1 circus basks in the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo and stateside fans look to the Indianapolis 500, we are taking a trip to Salzburg, Austria.
The World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) was born out the expanding European Touring Car Series, and has featured arguably the best tin top racing outside of the British Isles – but don’t tell the Scandinavians!
Some might say it is a watered-down-for-factories-BTCC and I’ve heard it referred to as “BTCC Lite” in the past, but there is no denying that the series is just as frantic as our own. Although not as factory based now as it was, the level of competition is still as strong as ever, in fact, since its expanding out of the ETCC, each champion has served their apprentice if you like in the BTCC, Priaulx, Tarquini, Muller, Huff and a few other drivers (whose names may be familiar) getting stuck into the mix. Rickard Rydell, the Toms, Boardman, Chilton and Coronell, James Thompson, Alain Menu and multiple World Rally Champion, the legend that is Sebastian Loeb has joined the series with the works Citroen squad.
So it’s the BTCC but held on worldwide racetracks?
Almost, yes. Some of the cars are similar (Honda, Chevrolet) in sight but different under the hood. The WTCC cars using 1.6l turbo engines as opposed to 2l turbo units used in the BTCC – not that that means any less excitement.
So do I still get 3 races?
No, the WTCC only race twice a weekend, with qualifying setting the grid for race one and a reverse grid of the top 10 qualifying times for race two so – like the BTCC you will see faster drivers starting from further back in the pack.
So who are the top drivers then?
Well the WTCC has read like a who’s who of touring car racing in the past. A certain Yvan Muller is the reigning champion and team mate to the rally king Loeb and early season championship leader Jose Maria Lopez in the Citroens. Former WTCC and BTCC champion Gabrielle Tarquini will be racing for the works Honda squad with other former champions in the shape of works Lada (yes Lada) pair James Thompson (BTCC) and Rob Huff (WTCC) but don’t expect too much from them just yet, while Tom Coronell, Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Micheleiz and Franz Engstler should keep you all entertained.
So, it’s just as action packed as our own series?
Oh yes, in fact due to some (separate) heavy shunts both Gabrielli Tarquini and Tom Coronell have already had to sit out a round apiece – these guys are trying and trying hard.
The World Touring Car Championship takes place on a mixture of race tracks and closed street circuits with the season finale held at Macau – a fantastic street racing festival often described as Monaco for tin tops.
Unfortunately though, it has not graced the shores of the UK since 2011, which is a huge shame going on the level of success in the championship, not just by British drivers but by teams too. RML who once ran the BTCC Seat and Chevrolet BTCC teams with Jason Plato have won the drivers title for the last 4 seasons and b: the great level of support for touring car racing in this country.
The WTCC is broadcast in the UK on Eurosport.