Curitiba: BMW Motorsport preview

World Touring Car Championship 2007 starts this weekend in Curitiba. Munich, 05 March 2007. This weekend Brazil's "Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba "provides the setting for rounds 1 and 2 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC)....

World Touring Car Championship 2007 starts this weekend in Curitiba.

Munich, 05 March 2007. This weekend Brazil's "Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba "provides the setting for rounds 1 and 2 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). Once again the drivers of the BMW national teams will be joining the line- up in the BMW 320si WTCC - the car that helped Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK to victory in the driver's championship last year as well as earning BMW the manufacturers' title.

This year 32-year-old Priaulx is aiming to leave the final in Macau with a title hat-trick - but his team-mates won't be making life easy for him as he tries for a repeat performance of 2005 and 2006. Jorg Muller (GER) and Augusto Farfus (BRA), both representing BMW Team Germany, came second and third overall last year and are strong contenders for victories in the new season. The same goes for Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy Spain, who will be looking to climb further up the rankings, while his new team-mate, rookie Felix Porteiro (ESP(, is keen to perform as strongly as his BMW colleagues.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: "This is the first time the World Touring Car Championship season is starting overseas. We are getting really excited about the start of the season, because after all, we have both the manufacturers' and the drivers' titles to defend this year. So we have a real challenge ahead of us. Last year the BMW 320si WTCC was the best basic car in the world championship, and in 2007 we want to make sure it stays that way. The cars in the World Touring Car Championship are not only very similar to the series product, they are derived from it. BMW's long series of victories proves our competence, and our customers appreciate that."

Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK): "I am really pleased that the new season is finally about to begin. On the flight back home from Macau after I won last year's title, my thoughts were already turning to 2007. It doesn't make any difference whether you have already won two world championships or not - race drivers always want to win. That's not just true of me, it's the same for all of the drivers in the series. So it is going to be another thrilling season, and I am confident that the BMW Team UK will provide the best possible car for me so I make it to the top."

Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany): "I finished the season 2006 with a victory in Macau and I am convinced that we have a strong enough package to be up at the front right from the word go this year. I am aiming to make it difficult for Andy Priaulx to win his third title. But I am also going to do everything in my power to achieve another victory for BMW in the manufacturers' championship. I am more motivated than ever. The race calendar is very varied and I am especially looking forward to the street circuits. But first of all I need to get off to a good start in Curitiba."

Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany): "Of course, the fact that I am starting my first season with the BMW family in my home town of all places is really special, so I am really looking forward to it. Curitiba is a fairly fast circuit, which basically suits my driving style very well. I wasn't on pole there for nothing in 2006. The S bend in the middle section of the track presents a particular challenge, but I am optimistic that we will make a good go of it as we start the season."

Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain): "In a way my two races in Curitiba in 2006 were indicative of how the whole season went: I was fast all weekend, but in the qualifying I made a mistake, so when it came to race I was right at the back of the starting grid. But I still made it onto the podium in the second race. For 2007 I have decided I am going to make more out of my opportunities and I am going to take advantage of all the chances I can get. Last year we didn't know what to expect from Curitiba, but this year the very fact that the race is the start of the season makes it something really special."

Felix Porteiro (BMW Team Italy-Spain): "I can hardly wait to compete in my first WTCC race at last! In 2006 when I was driving in the European Touring Car Cup in Estoril I got a taste of what it feels like to be duelling door on door against strong competitors. This is my first world championship season, so the first thing I have to do is to get to know my BMW 320si WTCC inside and out. If the opportunity arises for me to get up on the podium, I would like to be there to take it."

History and background: Last year the first half of the WTCC season ended dramatically in Curitiba after a series of accidents meant the second race had to be red-flagged. Luckily for BMW, Andy Priaulx was able to celebrate his fourth victory of the season while Alessandro Zanardi joined an impressive chase for third. The 40-year-old also achieved the fastest lap in front of 34,000 spectators.

After 2006, this year sees the "Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba" making its second appearance on the WTCC calendar, taking over from Monza as the venue for the opening race of the season. The Brazilian event is the only world championship stop in South America.

The city of Curitiba has 1.6 million inhabitants and is the capital of the Brazilian federal state of Parana. Located some 340 km from San Paulo, it was founded in 1693 by Portuguese settlers and is now the most advanced of all Brazil's major cities.

The two WTCC races cover 14 laps each, although a change in the starting procedure means that the first race of the day will have a rolling start scheduled for 12.20 local time on Sunday (16.20 hrs CET). Race two (starting at 15.20 hrs local time, 19.20 hrs CET) continues to have a standing start.

All drivers will be starting the Curitiba race with a basic weight handicap of 10 kg.

-credit: bmw motorsports

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