Macau: Chevy preview

STREET FIGHTERS: AFTER PAU AND PORTO, CHEVROLET WANTS WIN IN MACAU Record 33-Car Entry For 54th Running Of Classic Touring Car Fest At the end of next weekend, one of a possible six drivers will be the 2007 World Touring Car Champion. At the...

STREET FIGHTERS: AFTER PAU AND PORTO, CHEVROLET WANTS WIN IN MACAU

Record 33-Car Entry For 54th Running Of Classic Touring Car Fest

At the end of next weekend, one of a possible six drivers will be the 2007 World Touring Car Champion. At the traditional end-of-season touring car races on the fast Guia street course of Macau, in the People's Republic of China, drivers from each of the manufacturers represented in the WTCC still have a chance to become the successor of Andy Priaulx. They are Andy Priaulx himself, Augusto Farfus and Jorg Muller for BMW, Yvan Muller for SEAT, James Thompson for Alfa Romeo and Nicola Larini for Chevrolet.

Chevrolet's Nicola Larini's chances of winning the title are mathematical at best, but more than anything else the Italian is chasing that elusive first WTCC win. With all front runners running on or near the maximum success ballast of 60 kilograms, the cards are pretty evenly distributed, and the Chevrolet Lacetti's reputation on street courses is well known. At the new-for-2007 street tracks of Pau and Porto, the Lacettis came away victorious both times, so Larini is more than hopeful to finally break his duck in China.

So far this year, Chevrolet has been one of the two most successful manufacturers in the championship with four pole positions (each time Alan Menu), six race wins (second to BMW's eight), four fastest race laps (two each for Menu and Rob Huff) and 91 race laps led (second to BMW's 119), which is more than SEAT and Alfa Romeo put together. Also, Chevrolet's results are achieved with just three cars entered, as opposed to BMW's and SEAT's five. In the drivers' championship Alain Menu leads the stats for race wins (four), pole positions (four) and race laps led (62), while he shares Chevrolet's total number of fastest race laps with Rob Huff (two each).

With the Lacetti's well established street fighting reputation, and with the cars qualifying in championship order, the smart money in the Monaco of the East is best put on blue, numbers 6, 7 or 8.

QUOTES

Nicola Larini: "It is nice to go to the finale races with a chance of winning the world title for the first time ever, but we all know that even if I were to win both races the outcome of the championship would still depend on the performance of others. That said, my main goal will be to finally try to win that first WTCC race. The new qualifying system for this race will certainly help to avoid the mishaps we had in qualifying last year, when my potentially fastest lap was ruined by an accident. But Macau is like that: unforgiving if you're unlucky but very rewarding if you play your cards right."

Alain Menu: "In the WTCC, Macau is the big one; the race everybody wants to win. It's like Monaco in F1, Le Mans in sports cars or Daytona in NASCAR, with the only difference that our big race is also the finale of the championship. While most of us would love to win if possible, some will just have to win at any cost. As you know, I quite like street races and Macau is no different. I finished on the podium here in the first year and but for bad luck in qualifying last year we could have done well again. Like Rob I will of course try to help Nic in his championship bid, but we all know that the best laid plans for Macau can often be put aside straight after the start. In this race, more than in any other, luck comes into play a lot."

Rob Huff: "I'm really excited about going to Macau. It's the race track where I feel the Chevrolets perform the strongest every year, even if the results don't always show it. The Lacetti has been excellent around all the street circuits this year, so there's no reason why next weekend's race should be any different. I will of course try to help Nic as much as I can, since he still has an outside chance at winning the title, but I will also try to finish on the podium or maybe even score a win if Nic's title battle is over. The 60 kilos of ballast we're carrying won't affect us too much, since all of the front runners are also carrying maximum ballast."

Mark Busfield: "Since there was a long gap between the last race in Monza and this one, and also because we are flying the cars to Macau, we have prepared them as thoroughly as we possibly could. The Guia track is a long one, probably the longest active street course in the world, so qualifying will be more important here than anywhere else we've run this year. As a rule, the cars having their pits closest to the pit exit have the best shot at setting a fast qualifying time, because they have a clear track ahead of them. In the past, perfect qualifying laps have often been ruined by accidents elsewhere on the track and on street courses this usually means that the track is partly blocked or the session red-flagged. For this year's Macau race, the Touring Car Commission has now decided to let the cars on the track in the Drivers' Championship order. This means that in practice and qualifying Nicola will be the sixth car on the track, Alain seventh and Rob ninth, which we feel gives all the drivers an honest chance at setting a good time. Also new for Macau is the fact that we will run the races to the old schedule of having two back-to-back races with just 15 minutes repair time in between. This of course means there is less time to work on the cars should there be substantial repairs needed after race one."

Eric Nève: "It has been a long time since the last race at Monza, but the team has been very busy preparing the Macau round as well as testing specifications for the 2008 car. Macau is one of those anachronisms in motorsports, a street track from a different era. But the racing is fierce and the welcome we get each year is fabulous, so it is the ideal place to decide the 2007 World Titles. As far as we are concerned, I think we have already achieved more than we could have hoped for at the beginning of the season, but an additional win or two is always welcome of course. Maybe Nicola can finally win his first ever WTCC race; maybe the Chinese lucky number 8 will bring win number five to Alain, who knows."

-credit: chevroleteurope.com

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