BRAGA TO HOST THE FIFTH EDITION OF THE FIA EUROPEAN TOURING CAR CUP
The fifth edition of the FIA European Touring Car Cup will take place on October 25th at Braga's Circuito Vasco Samerio.
This will be the first FIA automobile event at the 3.0 km racetrack located 6 km North of Portugal's third largest city. Although the karting track nearby has hosted several international meetings, including FIA World Championships in 2000 and 2005, the racing circuit has only been used for national events so far.
16 drivers of 10 nationalities have entered the event and they are at the wheel of cars built from 6 different manufacturers (see the final entry list attached).
A FOUR-MANUFACTURER BATTLE FOR S2000
Although the number of cars has shrunk considerably compared to the previous editions, especially because the smaller teams could not find the budget to afford taking part in the event, the top level of the Super 2000 field promises exciting and close competition.
In the major class, double European Cup winner Michel Nykjær will try to secure a third consecutive title facing strong opposition from WTCC regulars James Thompson and Franz Engstler, SEAT Eurocup new champion Norbert Michelisz, experienced touring car racers like Vincent Radermecker and Tomas Engstrom, ambitious young lions such as Harry Vaulkhard and Per Poulsen and a trio of very fast locals: Fèlix Duarte da Costa, Jose Monroy and Francisco Carvalho.
As a matter of fact, drivers of four different manufacturers - BMW, Chevrolet, Honda and SEAT - will be fighting on equal ground for the European crown.
SHORT STORY OF THE EUROPEAN CUP
The FIA European Touring Car Cup is reserved for cars complying with the FIA Super 2000, Super Production and Super 1600 technical regulations. Drivers' titles are awarded for each of the three categories.
The first edition, held in Valellunga, Italy, on 16th October 2005 was won by Richard Goransson from Sweden in a BMW 320i (S2000) and Lorenzo Falessi from Italy in an Alfa Romeo 147 (SP).
The second edition took place in Estoril, Portugal, on 22nd October 2006 and saw victories of Ryan Sharp from Scotland in a SEAT Leon (S2000) and Alexander Lvov from Russia in a Honda Civic (SP).
The third edition, hosted by the Italian Adria Raceway, on 28th October 2008, Denmark's Michel Nykjær (SEAT Leon) and Russia's Aleksey Basov (Honda Civic) claimed the S2000 and SP titles respectively.
Nykjær (Chevrolet Lacetti) encored his S2000 victory in last year's edition at the Austrian Salzburgring, on 29th October 2009. Italian Fabio Fabiani (BMW 320i) was sacred champion in SP. S1600 cars made their first appearance and the title went to Ralf Martin from Germany in a Ford Fiesta ST.
NATIONS CUP AWARDED FOR THE FOURTH TIME
In addition to the three FIA European Touring Car Cups for Super 2000, Super Production and Super 1600 drivers, the FIA Touring Car Nations Cup will be awarded for the fourth time. This title goes to the National Sporting Authority (ASN) whose drivers have scored the highest number of points in the two races. The best two cars entered by competitors belonging to same ASN will be taken into consideration for the Nations Cup's classification.
The Nations Cup was awarded to the British Motor Sports Association in 2006 and the Dansk Automobil Sports Union in 2007 in 2008.
ONE QUALIFYING AND TWO 50-KM RACES
The format of the FIA European Touring Car Cup is based on the FIA World Touring car Championship's.
After private test sessions on Friday, the actual event will start on Saturday with two 30-minute practices and one 30-minute qualifying. On Sunday two back-to-back 50-km races (17 laps) will take place, featuring a rolling start and a standing start respectively.
The grid for the second race will be determined by the results of the first race, with the first eight drivers classified placed in reverse order.
YOKOHAMA AWARDS 165,000-EURO PRIZE MONEY
Yokohama, sole supplier of the control tyres of the FIA European Touring Car Cup will award the competitors a prize money of 165,000 euros. Prize money will be split among the three categories: ? 125,000 to Super 2000, ? 25,000 to Super 1600 and ? 15,000 to Super Production.
NYKJÆR LOOKS FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE CROWN
Michel Nykjær, recently crowned Danish Touring Car champion for the second time, will defend his double FIA European Touring Car Cup title in the Super 2000 class at Braga. The Dane, who will be again at the wheel of a Perfection Racing Chevrolet Lacetti car, won the ETCC in 2007 at Adria and in 2008 at Salzburgring.
"I guess that because I arrive with two consecutive victories I should be regarded as one of the favourite drivers. But there are many others who are aiming for the title, so it is going to be a hard fight. In this kind of event, when everything is decided in one day, anything can happen. It would be great to win again and make a hat trick, but it requires two perfect heats," said Nykjær.
MICHELISZ WINS PARTICIPATION IN BRAGA
By clinching the 2009 SEAT Leon Eurocup title, Norbert Michelisz won participation in the FIA European Touring Car Cup.
The 24-year old from Hungary will race at Braga in a SEAT Leon car entered by SUNRED Engineering.
This is the second year the winner of the SEAT Eurocup is awarded with participation in the ETCC. In 2008 Oscar Nogues won the second race to finish runner-up in the S2000 cup at the Austrian Salzburgring.
THOMPSON TOPS THE FAVOURITES' LIST
WTCC ace James Thompson joins the ETCC in Braga as the most serious contender for the Super 2000 crown.
The Briton will race a Honda Accord run by the Denmak-based Hartmann Honda Racing, the same car he has driven in selected events of the Danish Touring Car Championship, claiming four race victories. The ETCC is the umpteenth commitment for Thompson who is spending the season jumping back and forth between WTCC with LADA Sport, the Danish and British Touring Car championships and the Australian V8 series.
His team-mate in Braga will be Per Poulsen, the winner of the Privateers' Cup for Hartmann in this year's Danish Touring Car Championship.
A STRONG PAIR FOR MAURER MOTORSPORT
Maurer Motorsport come to Braga with a very strong team: two Chevrolet Lacetti cars in the hands of Vincent Radermecker and Jose Monroy.
Both drivers have already been successful with the Swiss outfit during the previous seasons. Radermecker, a 42-year-old from Belgium, is one of the most experienced Touring Car racers in Europe, having competed in the British, Belgian, French and German championships claiming three national titles in his home country and the 2006 German ADAC Procar with a Maurer-run Chevrolet.
Monroy, 29 from Lisbon is a top contender in the Portuguese Touring Car Championship. After finishing runner-up in 2007 switching from a BMW to Maurer's Lacetti in the last races, he is currently leading the series' 4th Division at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
ENGSTLER TEAMS UP WITH KITSING
WTCC regular independent Franz Engstler will take part in the ETCC once again. After he saw his ambitions frustrated last year because of a pile up at the start of the first race, the German driver is definitely determined to claim a great result.
The second BMW of Liqui Moly Team Engstler will be driven by Estonian racer Urmas Kitsing, who made his first ETCC appearance last year at Salzburg and is currently competing in the German ADAC Procar series.
ENGSTROM THE FAITHFUL FOLLOWER
Among the ETCC competitors, Tomas Engstrom is the most faithful follower. As a matter of fact he is the only one who has taken part in all the four previous editions. And he's coming to Braga to make his fifth consecutive appearance at the wheel of his Honda Accord.
After a third place in the 2006 ETCC at Estoril and a second in 2007 at Adria, last year Engstrom qualified fourth at Salzburg but retired in the first race after an incident. Maybe Braga will bring him luck. "My goal is definitely to compete for a podium position!" he said.
TWO CHEVROLET CARS FOR BAMBOO
UK-based Bamboo Engineering have entered two Chevrolet Lacetti cars. The team's BTCC regular driver Harry Vaulkhard will be joined by Duarte Felix da Costa who currently lies second in the Portuguese Touring Car Championship after a recent race win at the Braga circuit in September.
"Looking at the circuit the Chevrolet should be a strong car round there and to have someone alongside me with the experience of Duarte should put us in a great position for a good result there," Vaulkhard declared.
Da Costa echoed: "To race with Bamboo was an easy choice for me, the Chevrolet is a fast car, with their experience of the car in the BTCC and RML support, I'm certain it's a good combination and I'm sure we'll be on the pace from the outset."
VELOSO MOTORSPORT AIM FOR GOOD RESULT
Francisco Carvalho will take part in the Super 2000 cup at the wheel of a SEAT Leon run by Veloso Motorsport.
"This participation is a big step forward for out team, as we aim to build up international experience. We are proud to race in Braga and we have high expectations because of the car's potential and the driver's excellent knowledge of the track," said team principal Luis Veloso.
After claiming a number of victories in the Portuguese Touring Car Championship and the SEAT Supercopa driving a Leon Turbo, Carvalho is facing his maiden appearance in a Super 2000 machine: "I am very happy for this opportunity that I have been waiting long for. We have very good chances to claim an important result, although our handicap is having not enough time to get used to the car."
FINANCIAL CRISIS AFFECTS SMALLER CLASSES
The financial crisis has hit the smaller teams hard, affecting participation in the Super Production and Super 1600 categories.
Only three drivers have entered in Super Production. Marcis Birkens from Latvia drives a Honda Civic; he has recently been crowned Baltic Touring Car champion and faces his first international motorsport appearance. Russians Nikolay Karamishev (VW Golf) and Mikhail Zasadych (Opel Astra) have already competed in the ETCC. Karamishev was runner-up in Super Production last year at Salzburg, while his fellow countryman Zasadych took part in the 2006 event at Estoril.
Carsten Seifert is the only competitor for the Super 1600 Cup. The 28-year-old German will be at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta ST; he was classified second in last year's event at the Salzburgring.
BOTH RACES LIVE ON EUROSPORT
Eurosport will broadcast live both the FIA European Touring Car Cup races from Braga on Sunday, October 25th.
Race 1 will be aired on Eurosport 2 from 13.00 to 13.30; coverage of the second race will be on Eurosport International, from 14.30 to 15.00. All times are CET.