Different starting conditions for BMW drivers in Monza. Munich, 1st October 2007. This weekend the BMW national teams will be lining up at the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza" for rounds 19 and 20 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. After...
Different starting conditions for BMW drivers in Monza.
Munich, 1st October 2007. This weekend the BMW national teams will be lining up at the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza" for rounds 19 and 20 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. After celebrating victory at Brands Hatch eight days ago, Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK enters the competition in Italy as championship leader. With 81 points under his belt, the defending title holder is currently enjoying a 12-point lead over BMW Team Germany's Augusto Farfus (BRA). Priaulx's appearance at Monza this weekend marks his 100th European and World Touring Car Championship race with BMW.
For the first time this season, the gap between the front runner and his rivals is sizeable. Until now the lead in the Drivers' Championship has passed regularly between Priaulx, Farfus and Jorg Muller (GER) of BMW Team Germany. This time around, however, the three will be joining the races under very different conditions. In the fight to defend his championship lead, Priaulx will have 60 kg of ballast on board as he tries to ensure that he holds all the aces for the finale in Macau. Meanwhile Farfus and Muller will also enter the last race on European soil carrying maximum ballast. They will be doing their level best to close the gap to the leader. All the while the BMW trio will keep their eye on the competition, as there a still some other drivers that are keen on winning the championship title.
This weekend also sees 36-year-old Fredrik Ekblom (SWE) support BMW Team UK once again. The new Swedish Touring Car Champion (STCC) secured victory in his national contest in the BMW 320si WTCC. Having managed 12th and 14th place at his WTCC premiere in Anderstorp at the end of July, he will now be looking to achieve at least a points finish.
Also joining the chase for points will be Felix Portiero (ESP) and Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy-Spain. Porteiro last enjoyed success in Brands Hatch, where he celebrated his third podium appearance this year. For Zanardi racing on home ground in front of thousands of excited "tifosi" is always the highlight of the season.
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain): "As always, racing in front of my Italian fans will be very special to me. But irrespective of that, I am looking forward to the circuit at Monza. It is just fantastic and fascinates drivers from Formula 1 just as much as it does touring car drivers. It has eternally long straights and several hard braking points. Racing there is always a lot of fun. It rewards my driving style. I've always been really fast in Monza. Last year I was in the position to win. I hope it's the same in 2007. Until now, this year has not gone quite as I would have wished, so my home race is particularly important: with a good result we should be able to end the season on a reconciliatory note."
History and background:
Since 2001 Monza has been on the schedules of the European and World Touring Car Championship every year except one: in 2002 the Italian ETCC event took place in Pergusa. Three times (in 2001, 2004 and 2005) the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza" has been the showplace for the opening race of the season, and in 2003 it provided the backdrop for the European Championship title ceremony.
For BMW, Monza has been the setting for Jorg Muller's two victories in the European Touring Car Championship and for two WTCC triumphs. Last year, the track also hosted a very special occasion involving Andy Priaulx: in the opening race of the day the 33-year-old took the BMW 320si WTCC out for its competition debut and was the front runner from lights to finish straight away.
However the second race of 2006 ended in disappointment for the BMW national teams, when a series of accidents foiled efforts by any of the five BMW drivers to reach the chequered flag. On the penultimate lap, Alessandro Zanardi, who was in second place at the time, set himself up to overtake Augusto Farfus, but an ensuing collision left his car with a damaged suspension and his hopes for a podium appearance dashed.
Set in the Royal Park, the Monza circuit is one of the last real high-speed tracks. Top speeds recorded there in WTCC and Formula 1 races in particular are an impressive testimony to this fact: in 2007 BMW Sauber F1 Team driver Robert Kubica (POL) was the fastest driver in the field, reaching top speeds of 351.7 km/h in the Italian Grand Prix. He finished fifth, following team-mate Nick Heidfeld (GER) in fourth.
Located in the region of Lombardy, Monza is 15 km north-east of Milan on the River Lambro. It is home to some 122,000 people.
The circuit opened in 1922. After several updates throughout its long history, its crumbling banked corner remains a silent witness to the early days. Since the 1000 km Monza race in 1967 the oval, which formed part of the original track layout, has fallen into disuse.
After the "Guia Circuit" in Macau, the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza" is the second longest track in this year's WTCC race calendar. The two races require drivers to complete nine laps of the 5.770 km track before the chequered flag will be raised.
The drivers of the BMW national teams will be available for group interviews on Saturday afternoon from 17:00hrs to 17:15hrs, with individual meetings possible afterwards by appointment only.
The first race in Monza starts on Sunday at 12.05hrs local time (11:05hrs BST). The second starts at 15:35hrs (14:35hrs BST). Eurosport International will provide live coverage of both races.