Zanardi takes another win in the WTCC at the wheel of a BMW 320si.
Istanbul (Turkey), 24th September 2006. Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy-Spain won the 15th round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. At the wheel of his BMW 320si WTCC, the 39-year-old celebrated a dominant victory at the "Istanbul Speed Park". It was Zanardi's second World Championship win after his triumph in Oschersleben last year. SEAT's Rickard Rydell (SWE) and Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) finished second and third respectively. BMW Team Germany driver Dirk Muller (GER) took fourth position. In the second race of the day, which was started with a two-hour delay following torrential rainfalls, Tarquini claimed victory ahead of his brand-mate Peter Terting (GER) and Chevrolet's Nicola Larini (ITA). Dirk Muller (GER) of BMW Team Germany finished seventh, thus being the most successful of driver of the BMW national teams in this round.
Following the two races on Turkish soil, the chase for the drivers' title is closer than ever. Despite leaving Istanbul empty-handed, BMW Team UK's Andy Priaulx (GBR) is still leading the championship with 58 points. Dirk Muller improved to fourth position, now having 51 points under his belt. In the manufacturers' classification, BMW is in second place having scored 192 points. SEAT holds the lead with 201 points.
Zanardi had set the fastest lap times in each practice session this weekend and confirmed his underlined shape at the start of race one. The former Formula One driver overtook pole-sitter Rydell when entering turn 1 - and defended the lead until the chequered flag. After ten laps he crossed the line as winner, 1.002 seconds ahead of the Swede. Following second- and third-place finishes in Brno and Curitiba, Zanardi and his BMW Team Italy-Spain celebrated their first win of the season.
Behind the top three, the drivers of the BMW national teams were involved in many exciting duels. Zanardi's team-mate Duncan Huisman (NLD) battled SEAT driver Yvan Muller (FRA) for a couple of laps. After several attacks and counter-attacks, he finally took fourth place on lap five. Shortly later, he set the fastest lap of the race, clocking a time of 2:06.959 minutes. Nevertheless, Dirk Muller managed to pass his brand-mate on the final lap of the race. The 30-year-old had delivered a mature performance and kept out of all turmoil. By winning five championship points, Dirk Muller celebrated his comeback in the WTCC title fight.
However, reigning touring car champion Priaulx and Jorg Muller (GER) experienced a less successful race. Already on the second lap, Priaulx was pushed off the track by Luca Rangoni (ITA) and lost many positions. The 32-year-old, carrying the maximum handicap weight of 80 kilograms, finished 14th and had to have his exhaust changed. BMW Team Germany driver Jorg Muller was running in sixth place, when the left rear wheel suspension of his car was damaged in a collision with Yvan Muller on lap four. He headed into the pits to give his Schnitzer Motorsport crew the opportunity to repair the damage for the second race.
In the break between the two sprint races, a thunderstorm with heavy rainfalls hit the "Istanbul Speed Park". Turn 9 was completely flooded. However, when the rain gave way to sunshine again, conditions improved quickly and race two could be started at 18:15hrs local time.
At the beginning, it appeared as if the drivers of the BMW national teams could once more fight for top positions. But over the course of the race, the wet track proved to be difficult territory for the quintet, as none of them succeeded in scoring a podium result. Nevertheless, Jorg Muller had all reason to be happy with his incredible catch up. Starting from the pit lane, he ploughed through the field and finished eighth. Dirk Muller took chequered flag one spot ahead of his team-mate. The 2005 WTCC runner-up was running in third place for many laps, but could not match his rivals' pace on the slippery track. He won two championship points for seventh place.
Zanardi and Huisman also struggled with the difficult conditions. Over the course of the race, Zanardi dropped down from fifth to ninth place. Huisman had to make do with tenth position. Priaulx suffered a dose of bad luck: The Guernsey-born driver was on his way to moving up from 14th place. On lap two, however, he was hit by another car. In this collision, the rear bumper of his BMW 320si WTCC was damaged and slashed the right rear tyre. As a consequence, Priaulx had to retire with a tyre failure on lap three.
The FIA World Touring Car Championship will resume on 8th October 2006 at Valencia's "Circuit de la Comunitat" with rounds 17 and 18 of the exciting series.
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"I'm really happy about my second win in the World Touring Car Championship. It's a fantastic feeling, if you see your rivals becoming smaller and smaller in your rear mirror and to realise that victory is drawing closer. My first win in Oschersleben was unbeatable in terms of emotions. However, my situation has not changed dramatically since then, as my legs have not grown back again. Therefore, this moment is also very special for me. My team gave me a car that was almost unbeatable in the dry today. It's great to win the first race, when everybody gives its all to score a good result. I made the suggestion during the break to cancel race two and to award double points to the winner of race one-- No, seriously, there was not much for us to win in the wet. That's why I'm delighted that the first race went so good for us."