Muller, Huff and Menu aim for third double WTCC title in a row
ZÜRICH / WELLINGBOROUGH: Spring is knocking at the door and so is the new WTCC season. The world’s top touring car championship is ready to take center stage once again as the 2012 season kicks off in a week at one of the most legendary circuits, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in Italy.
Chevrolet has set its sights high for the new season: retaining the double (Manufacturers’ and Drivers’) World Champion crowns conquered in 2010 and 2011. Staying on top of any sport for three years in a row is not easy, but Chevrolet, the RML team and the three drivers are committed to achieving this goal.
The new season will see further globalization of the WTCC, notably with a first event ever in the U.S., increased competition with the return of a SEAT works team and the arrival of Ford, and more demanding reliability requirements where no engine changes are allowed.
Activity has been intense during the winter to further develop the Cruze: with the car now in its fourth year of race activity, the room for improvement is narrowing and now measures in the hundredths of seconds. The bulk of the work focused on the engine electronics, the cooling system and suspensions, and the efforts have been validated at recent tests in Valencia (Spain) and Donington (the U.K.), while the final pre-Monza shakedown testing is taking place today at MIRA, also in the U.K.
Three other Cruzes will be present at the season-opener in Monza: the privateer U.K. team Bamboo Engineering with Alex MacDowall and Pasquale Di Sabatino as drivers, and reigning Scandinavian Touring Car champion Rickard Rydell is making a come-back to the WTCC with the Nika Racing-managed car entered by Chevrolet Motorsport Sweden.
Yvan Muller: “I am approaching this new season in the same way I have always done – thinking that we have to start everything from scratch and nothing can be taken for granted. I have no particular goals except to do my job as best as I can, and not to put pressure on myself. If I made a mistake last year, it was precisely to put excessive pressure on myself at the beginning of the season. I will avoid repeating that this year, which is why I took more time to relax and rest during the winter break.
“Apart from promotional activities for the brand, my coaching courses at an ice driving school in Lapland, and a couple of testing sessions with the team, I have been quite disconnected from racing. I feel I’m in much better shape than at the same time last year. Having said that, it is not going to be an easy season with the new reliability rules and increased competition. But I’m ready to take up the challenge.”
Rob Huff: “I have more or less kept away from racing and cars during the winter. I think it was necessary after the intense season we had in 2011. I am very happy with what I accomplished last year, although it was disappointing to lose the title by a handful of points. It takes an extra little something to beat such a great touring car star like Yvan, and that is what I’ll try to achieve this year. I am as motivated and determined as I could be.”
Alain Menu: “My 2011 season left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I was very happy with my driving and managed some really good results. But on the other hand, I was unlucky on a number of occasions, such as the two accidents in Monza and Budapest, both of which were not my fault. Those ruined my championship chances.
“In a very competitive series such as the WTCC, consistency is essential and you have to score big points at every race. This is what I aim to do in 2012. Although I’m nearly 49, I enjoy driving and racing as much as I did the first day I took to the wheel. I am still at the top of my form and this is exactly what I will try to prove this year. I have worked a lot on my physical condition during the winter.
“Another positive development is that I will have a new car engineer. It is good to change working partnerships from time to time as this obliges you to refresh the way you think and helps you take a step forward, so I am feeling very positive about the new season.”
Eric Nève: ”From the outside, it could appear that Chevrolet is favorite to win the titles. However, to stay in the front of the pack for three consecutive years is always a challenge, in any sport. We are approaching 2012 with humility, but also with great determination. To see the competition progressing puts pressure on us, but is also very stimulating. We are definitely thrilled about the debut of Ford, our traditional rival in U.S. racing, and it’s great to see the WTCC becoming more global year after year. Going to the U.S. later in the year for the first-ever WTCC event in our brand’s home country is going to be very exciting.”
Susan Docherty, President and Managing Director, Chevrolet Europe: “I have fond memories of participating in our Chevrolet Racing efforts in the U.S. and I can’t wait to get back to the race track and personally meet with our world champions. Chevrolet has a history of winning at the track and I am very impressed with the team’s WTCC achievements in recent years along with the professionalism, hard work and passion that spill over to the entire Chevrolet team. Racing has always been a key part of our 100-year history and we believe that competition is in our genes.”