Chevrolet WTCC Racing
Only African FIA track event saw first wins for Cruze in 2009
ZÜRICH / WELLINGBOROUGH, 10 April 2012: The FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) is heading to Africa for the third round of the season with Chevrolet leading in both Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ title races.
The historic Moroccan town of Marrakech plays host for Races 5 and 6 at the 4.545 km Moulay al-Hassan urban track. This is the third time the WTCC will race at this circuit, after the 2009 and 2010 events, and the only round of a track FIA World Championship on African soil.
Marrakech carries fond memories for Chevrolet. The first edition of the event saw Rob Huff give the Cruze, which had only started its race career a few weeks earlier, its first-ever WTCC win in Race 1, while Nicola Larini completed the team’s triumph with an emotional win in Race 2.
The Cruzes will seek to confirm Chevrolet’s impressive record on street circuits on a track that has undergone a number of improvements to minimize the race incidents and safety car deployments that marred the 2010 edition.
Chevrolet collected 173 points from the first four WTCC races, with BMW in 2nd position on 108 points and SEAT 3rd with 101. Reigning champion Yvan Muller leads the Drivers’ standing with 88 points, 27 ahead of teammate Alain Menu.
Yvan Muller: “After the excellent start of the season, my objective is to continue on the same track and win more points. Marrakech is not the easiest track and the most critical factor are brakes. There are four very hard braking points every lap and that means that it is difficult to avoid the brakes overheating after three or four laps. The phenomenon is accentuated by the walls and the narrowness of the track: there is very little air circulating at ground level.
“On top of that, the track is only used once a year, meaning it is dusty and does not have a great deal of grip. The suspensions also suffer considerably because you have to ride the kerbs in the chicanes. Marrakech is a complex track with its own specificities, but I’m confident we will be competitive.”
Alain Menu: “I am happy to go back to Marrakech. I wasn’t very successful last time round, so I feel I have a point to prove. Marrakech is the kind of track that doesn’t look very interesting on paper, but once you are there, you realize it is much more technical and challenging.
It is quite fast and looks more like a track surrounded by walls rather than a truly urban circuit. There is a long fast corner and the chicanes are not that easy; it is essential to exit fast to be best positioned in the straights that follow. Like all city tracks, it will be important to qualify well, although there are a couple of overtaking points.”
Rob Huff: “Marrakech is not only a beautiful city, but also one of my favorite circuits and I am quite proud to have been the first one to ever win a race there back in 2009. A year later, the safety-car was on the track most of the time. We must appreciate that in new urban tracks, it is very difficult for organizers to ‘guess’ where incidents can happen and where exactly to locate the cranes. Hopefully, this time they will guess right, but hopefully there won’t be any incidents.
“I quite like street circuits; they suit well my driving style, and as we will be better off in terms of weight, I really hope I can claim my first win of the year, reduce the points gap and have the real start of my season.”
Ron Hartvelt, Project Manager: “We didn’t go to Marrakech last year, so all our simulations are based on 2010 data, which we think are still valid. With our competitors gaining some weight after Valencia, I expect the Cruzes to be competitive, although we’ll still be the heaviest car.
“Marrakech is extremely demanding on brakes as you have long high-speed straights and slow corners and chicanes with severe braking. As strange as it may sound, it’s comparable with Monza, although the circuit settings couldn’t be more different. On the positive side, tire drop-off should be very low, as in all urban tracks. The circuit design hasn’t changed since 2010, but we understand that there are modifications in the position of the walls to allow faster intervention from the marshals in case of accidents.
”We can also expect cooler weather conditions than in previous years as we are going there earlier. The cars have been re-prepared on the field in Valencia after the race.
The same will happen after Marrakech as the cars will go directly to Bratislava for the next round and will only be briefly back at the factory between the Budapest and Salzburgring races. Given this year’s calendar, logistics are playing an even greater role in 2012, but I can say that RML has become quite good in coping with such situations.”
Eric Nève: “We are delighted to go back to Morocco where the Cruze took the first two wins of its track days. The WTCC is a global series and we know that a lot of Moroccan fans are eagerly waiting to watch the best touring car racing. This will be a perfect opportunity to showcase a global car such as the Cruze in a region, the Southern shore of the Mediterranean, which is becoming more and more important.”
“Marrakech is the second stop of a long journey that started with the Valencia round and will later see the cars and the equipment going directly to Bratislava and Budapest. This requires some logistical organization, but we are used to these challenges. It will be important for us that the cars leave Marrakech unscathed, despite the additional risks that any street circuit entails.”