No reward for spirited comeback: BMW misses out on WTCC title.
The BMW national teams in the FIA World Touring Car Championship showed fighting spirit to keep the battle for the World Championship open right up to the season finale in Macau (CN). However, despite scoring a one-two in the final race, the BMW drivers failed to achieve their goal of passing the opposition on the season's final home straight. With 311 points, BMW finished runner-up in the Manufacturers' Championship, just three points behind SEAT. Augusto Farfus (BR) from BMW Team Germany was the highest placed BMW driver in third with 113 points. At the wheel of their BMW 320si WTCCs, the five BMW national team drivers claimed ten victories, three pole positions and clocked 12 fastest race laps for the brand over the course of the season. Between 2005 and 2007 BMW had won all Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships. In 1987 Roberto Ravaglia (IT), now the boss at BMW Team Italy-Spain, was triumphant in the first World Touring Car Championship.
BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen said: 'Congratulations to SEAT and Gabriele Tarquini on winning both championships. As expected the finale was dramatic, and this was somewhat symbolic of how the season had been for us. The first part of the year was especially difficult for us before we were able to close the gap. The outcome of the first race here in Macau was decided shortly after the start, when our rivals managed to get passed us. This lost Augusto Farfus his chance of winning the drivers' title. In the final race it was impossible to turn things around in the manufacturers' standing despite the BMW Team Germany one-two.'
Brazilian Farfus travelled to the finale at the 'Guia Circuit' with a theoretical chance of winning the World Championship. However, the BMW Team Germany driver was unable to make inroads into Tarquini's 13-point lead. Despite this, the 26- year-old could be happy with his season: he stood on the top step of the podium on six occasions, setting a new record, and secured three pole positions for BMW. Alongside Farfus, Andy Priaulx (GB) also claimed victories for BMW in Germany and Japan, while Alessandro Zanardi (IT) and Sergio Hernandez (ES) were both triumphant in the Czech Republic. Farfus' team-mate Jorg Muller (DE) climbed onto the podium six times and finished runner-up on five occasions to narrowly miss out on his 11th World Championship victory.
Difficult start, strong fightback.
The season did not start as planned for the BMW national teams. Not a single BMW driver made it to the podium in Curitiba (BR). At the second overseas event of the season, in Puebla (MX) the team put in a surprisingly strong performance to clinch pole position (Farfus) at the newly resurfaced circuit and claim three podium finishes. However, the WTCC inaugural race weekend in Marrakech (MA) merely confirmed the early season trend: only Farfus and Muller scored valuable points for BMW. The first World Touring Car Championship event to be held in Africa was followed by a dispute: on behalf of all the BMW national teams, BMW Team Germany launched a protest against the SEAT Leon TDI cars that lined up in the second race. The aim of this protest was to clarify the technical regulations regarding the maximum turbo boost pressure permitted for turbo-diesel engines. SEAT driver Tiago Monteiro (PT) was subsequently disqualified.
There were also plenty of topics of conversation away from the track at the curtainraiser to the European season in Pau (FR). As well as the maximum turbo boost pressure for turbo-diesel engines, the maximum engine speed of 8,500 rpm was discussed. Nine drivers, among them Priaulx and Hernandez, had exceeded this figure while shifting down through the gears. Surprisingly, the Stewards viewed this as a breach of the rules. Both drivers' times from the second qualifying session were discarded, costing Priaulx his pole position. Despite this, BMW drivers left France with a lot of points. Farfus, in particular, had his sights firmly set on the lead in the Drivers' Championship after finishing runner-up in both races.
The spell was finally broken in Valencia (ES): Farfus crossed the finish line first for the first time this season. As in previous years, BMW Team Italy-Spain again left its mark on the races in Brno (CZ), with Zanardi and Hernandez both celebrating victories. The event in Porto marked the 100th race in the history of the World Touring Car Championship since 2005. It was also the scene of Farfus' second victory of the season, and the Brazilian then went on to triumph in the second race at Brands Hatch (GB). At BMW's home event in Oschersleben (DE) it was Priaulx's turn to join the list of winners, while Farfus notched up victory number four of the season in race two. As expected, Imola (IT) proved to be a difficult circuit for BMW, but the national teams returned to form as the WTCC moved to Japan. It was Priaulx and Muller in race one, followed by Farfus and Priaulx again in race two to claim a pair of one-twos for BMW. Before the World Championship finale, SEAT's lead in the Manufacturers' Championship had been reduced from 29 points (after Marrakech) to just three. Farfus and Muller achieved the seventh one-two of the year for BMW in Macau. But that just wasn't enough to win the titles as their SEAT rivals also managed to collected podium results and plenty of points. Therefore the BMW national were unable to turn things around in the championship standings.
It remains four World Championship titles for the BMW 320si WTCC.
Although there was to be no title in 2009, the BMW 320si WTCC once again impressed on many race weekends. Following Priaulx's triumph and the Manufacturers' Championship title with the BMW 320i in 2005, the successor was also successful at the first attempt. The BMW 320si made its WTCC debut on 2nd April 2006, and was immediately impressive. Priaulx not only claimed pole position in Monza but also clinched victory in the first race. At the end of the year, BMW and Priaulx were at the top of the sport and successfully defended both titles in 2007.
The BMW national teams ended 2008 empty handed for the first time. The BMW Motorsport engineers reacted to the strengths of the SEAT Leon TDI with numerous detailed improvements to the BMW 320si WTCC, within the constraints of the Super2000 regulations. The most obvious visual modification was the facelift, which had previously been introduced to the series version of the BMW 3 Series. The BMW national teams raced for the first time with these design modifications in Marrakech. Zanardi's car featured another innovation: he started 2009 with a sequential, six-speed gearbox for the first time. As a result, however, the regulations meant the Italian was handicapped by an extra 30 kilograms of weight.
From the races in Valencia onwards, the BMW 320si WTCC regularly returned to winning ways. BMW narrowly missed out on winning the Manufacturers' Championship and its fifth World Championship title with this car by just three points. The ten triumphs achieved this season brings the car's total to an impressive 36 victories at World Championship level, making it a worthy representative of the sporty BMW 3 Series on race circuits around the world.
Success guarantee for BMW privateers.
The demand for BMW 320si WTCC racing kits, with which customer teams around the world are able to compete in accordance with the Super2000 regulations, is unstoppable. Over 60 models have been delivered by BMW Motorsport Distribution to date. Each one has what it takes to be a winner. Colin Turkington (GB), in particular, proved this point in 2009: the driver from the RAC team took the title in the prestigious British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in his BMW 320si WTCC.
In the WTCC Independents' Trophy, four BMW drivers finished in the top five. BMW privateer Felix Porteiro (ES) was only beaten by Tom Coronel (NL/SEAT). Franz Engstler (DE) was on the brink of a sensation in Pau as his BMW 320si WTCC led the race with a good chance of winning. Unfortunately a spectacular collision with the safety-car denied the old hand his victory. The German went on to finish fourth in the Independents' Trophy behind Coronel, Porteiro and Stefano D'Aste (IT/BMW).
Views on the 2009 FIA World Touring Car Championship:
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
"After a ropy start overseas, the European season has been a positive one for us. Everyone worked unbelievably hard to keep our chances of winning the title intact. Of course I am disappointed that we missed out on winning the title. Personally I can be happy with my overall performance this year. Congratulations to Gabriele Tarquini. He was very strong over the course of the season."
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
'Of course I am not happy with the way the season went for me personally. I have won three titles and would have liked to have had a say in the World Championship in Macau again. However, the victories in the second half of the season have given me a big boost. In general, the car's performance was excellent. I was often battling for pole position, and the race speed was also good. That makes it all the more disappointing to be returning to Europe without a title.'
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
'I should have had a lot more points to my name this year. Right from the start I felt very at home in the car and was always up there at the top when it came to performance. However, there were a few unfortunate situations that mean I am not where I could have been in the Drivers' Championship. For that reason the final part of the season has been all about supporting BMW and my team-mate Augusto Farfus as much as possible in their fights for the title. Motorsport is a team sport, and for that reason I do not find it difficult to put myself out there for the team.'
Sergio Hernandez (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
'I am happy with my first season with BMW Team Italy-Spain. I had a lot of nice moments, particularly my first victory in the Czech Republic. However, I have also learned from the less positive moments. I have become stronger as a result. The support I received from BMW was immense.'
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
'I am proud of some races this season. However, I would have liked to have been battling it out on a par with my BMW colleagues more often. In many situations we were lacking that little bit of luck that was required to get the absolute maximum out of the car. In other cases we made mistakes. That is racing. However, I am pleased that both Sergio and I were able to win in Brno. That is no more than our team deserved.'
An overview of the races in the 2009 FIA WTCC:
The year starts with a difficult race in Curitiba for the BMW national teams. Local hero Augusto Farfus takes fifth in the opening race, followed by sixth on a wet track in race two. His team-mate Jorg Muller is the man of the hour in the second race. He cuts through the field in his BMW 320si WTCC from 21st to finish in fifth. Sergio Hernandez from BMW Team Italy-Spain and BMW Team UK driver Andy Priaulx also score points. However, SEAT dominates proceedings at the 'Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba' to occupy the top four places in both races.
The disappointment in Brazil is followed by a surprising success in Puebla (MX), a venue that has always proven a difficult terrain for BMW in previous years. This time, however, Farfus claims pole position and finishes runner-up in the third race of the season. Priaulx joins him on the podium in third place. The three-time world champion goes one better in race two, while Farfus finishes in fourth place. Muller, Hernandez and his team-mate Alessandro Zanardi also pick up World Championship points. SEAT once again claims both race victories.
Only the two BMW Team Germany drivers leave the inaugural WTCC event in Marrakech (MA) with points in the bag. Muller finishes eighth and fourth, while Farfus is sixth in race two. BMW privateer Franz Engstler (DE) finishes seventh to catch the eye in the sixth race of the season. After the race BMW Team Germany launches a protest on behalf of the BMW national teams against the four SEAT Leon TDI cars that started the race. The aim of this protest is to clarify the technical regulations regarding the maximum turbo boost pressure permitted for turbo diesel engines. SEAT's Tiago Monteiro is subsequently disqualified.
The BMW national teams get back in the fast lane at the start of the European season. Farfus crosses the finish line as runner-up in both the races in Pau (FR), closing to within six points of Yvan Muller in the Drivers' Championship. Jorg Muller finishes third in race one to join the Brazilian on the podium. Priaulx ends both races in fourth, while Hernandez and Zanardi each score four World Championship points. Engstler has a terrifying moment in race two: leading the race, the BMW privateer is unable to avoid the safety-car, which has pulled out of the pit lane directly onto the racing line. Fortunately, all those involved walk away from the crash unharmed.
BMW celebrates its first success of the season at the 'Circuit de la Comunitat' in Valencia: Farfus takes the chequered flag at the end of the tenth race of the year. Muller finishes runner-up to complete the first BMW one-two since Brno in 2008. The remaining BMW drivers also add to their points tallies in the second race of the day: Priaulx is fourth, while Zanardi and Hernandez follow in fifth and sixth respectively. In the first race of the day Hernandez finishes eighth to claim pole position for race two. Yvan Muller clinches victory with Farfus, Priaulx and Muller occupying places four to six.
Brno, Czech Republic.
2009 sees BMW Team Italy-Spain continue its successful run at the 'Automotodrom Brno'. Zanardi and Hernandez are triumphant in races 11 and 12. Roberto Ravaglia's (IT) team also scored victories in the Czech Republic in 2007 and 2008. Jorg Muller joins Zanardi on the podium having finished runner-up in the first race. He then comes seventh in race two to add to his tally and leave Brno with ten points. Priaulx has to settle for eighth place in the second race. Following a collision with Priaulx at the start of race one, pole-sitter Farfus fails to score any points.
Farfus marks the return of Porto's 'Circuito da Boavista' to the race calendar with his second victory of the year. In the World Touring Car Championship's 100th race since 2005, the Brazilian starts from pole and holds on for victory having finished eighth in race one. Priaulx, the only man to have competed in every race in the spectacular series, and Muller also pick up points in seventh and eighth respectively. Hernandez is forced into the wall by a rival at the start of the first race. The Spaniard suffers a bruised ankle.
Brands Hatch, Great Britain.
As in Porto, Farfus converts the pole position awarded for eighth place in race one into a victory in the second race at Brands Hatch (GB). BMW celebrates its third one-two of the season thanks to a second place for Muller. Priaulx finishes third in race one to ensure that BMW drivers are represented on the podium after both races.
BMW is traditionally on sparkling form at its home event, and the same is the case in Oschersleben this year: Farfus moves into second place in the Drivers' Championship with victory in the 18th race of the season. This is already his fourth triumph this year and the 13th of his WTCC career. He is followed over the line by Priaulx, who claims his first victory of 2009 in race one. Priaulx wins from 14th place on the grid, making him the first driver in the history of the World Touring Car Championship to clinch victory having started from outside the top ten. Jorg Muller, who had started from 23rd on the grid, and Hernandez also pick up points in race two. In the Drivers' World Championship, Farfus' 90 points put him just one point behind Tarquini.
As expected, the BMW national teams experience two difficult races as the WTCC bids farewell to Europe at the 'Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari' circuit in Imola (IT). The highlights are two fourth places for Zanardi at his home race. Farfus, who scores only one point after a collision in race one, loses ground in the fight for the title. Hernandez finishes seventh in race one to secure a top-eight finish.
The BMW national teams need two strong races in Okayama (JP) in order to keep the title race exciting going into the finale in Macau ' and they achieve this goal in style. Priaulx and Farfus produce victories eight and nine for BMW by winning rounds 21 and 22. Priaulx wins on a wet track in the first race, and is followed by Muller in second. In the second race of the day the BMW 320si WTCC is once again the car to beat in the rain. Farfus converts the pole position into his fifth win of the season, while Priaulx finishes runner-up. These results make one thing clear: both World Championship titles will only be decided at the 'Guia Circuit' in Macau.
The 2009 FIA World Touring Car Championship comes to an end in Macau with another victory for Farfus. He wins the 24th race of the year, which is red-flagged following a big accident. His team-mate Muller comes second, making it the seventh one-two for BMW this season. By finishing seventh and eighth, Muller and Farfus have also scored points in the first race, which is won by Chevrolet's Robert Huff. Priaulx and the two BMW Team Italy-Spain drivers, Zanardi and Hernandez, left the 'Guia Circuit' empty-handed. Despite the one-two, the BMW national teams were not able to take away the championship titles from SEAT in the final showdown. Tarquini topped the drivers' classification with 127 points. Farfus comes third behind Yvan Muller Farfus with 113 points, and is the best-placed BMW driver. The Brazilian sets a record after celebrating six victories in the 2009 season. In the Manufacturers' Championship BMW missed out on the title by a mere three points.