COUTO TO DRIVE FOR ALFA IN MACAU
Alfa Romeo Racing have entered a fifth works car for the FIA WTCC finale at Macau. This additional 156 will be driven by local hero André Couto. 29-years old, the only local winner so far of the prestigious Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix in 2000, he will join fellow Alfa Romeo drivers Briton James Thompson, Brazil's Augusto Farfus Jr, and the Italian duo of Gabriele Tarquini and Championship contender Fabrizio Giovanardi.
No stranger to Macau's street circuit, Couto has competed both in single seaters and, in recent years, in the Guia touring car race. Neither is he a stranger to Alfa Romeo, racing in Macau in 2003 in a Super Production-spec 147 in the SJM Guia Race, taking pole position for Leg One.
"It is a tremendous honour for me to be flying the flag for Macau amongst the best touring car drivers in the world. I am certainly relishing the prospect of competing in the final round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship next month in front of my fellow Macau residents who are always so supportive of my racing career," said Couto.
MAXIMUM HANDICAP FOR THE TITLE CONTENDERS
The three drivers still in contention to claim the first FIA WTCC crown will be on equal footing at Macau. Dirk Müller, Andy Priaulx and Fabrizio Giovanardi, will carry the maximum 60 kg handicap weight. Jörg Müller, victorious in the second race at Valencia, will also have 60 extra kilos on board, while James Thompson and Alessandro Zanardi will carry 45 and 35 respectively. Fourteen drivers in total will have ballast, which is set to considerably influence performances on the Guia track's uphill section, from the San Francisco Hill bend to the Melco hairpin.
BERNHARDT REPLACES KLENKE AT FORD HOTFIEL
Patrick Bernhardt will replace Thomas Klenke at the wheel of one of Hotfiel Sport's Ford Focus cars for the final meeting in Macau.
Since the beginning of the season Bernhardt 34 years old from Wetzlar, Germany was one of the drivers who worked with the team to develop the Focus in Super 2000 specs, alongside Klenke and Michael Funke, who will be Bernhardt's team-mate in Macau.
During his already long career, Bernhardt emerged as a race winner in different categories: Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Touring Cars. His best season was 2003, when he was classified second in the German Touring Car Challenge at the wheel of a Ford Focus ST170 run by Hotfiel Sport.
GÖRANSSON: THE WTCC AFTER THE ETC CUP?
Last weekend Rickard Göransson became the first ever FIA European Touring Car Cup champion. The 27 year old has won the Swedish Touring Car Championship for two consecutive years with West Coast Racing's BMW cars.
How does it feel to be European Champion? "Great. I didn't expect it so it was a big bonus. It was actually one of the best weekends of the season and the whole team was happy, a great way to finish the racing year. It was extra special because we were like underdogs competing against some of the FIA WTCC teams, and we won. You could say it was a David versus Goliath victory."
Have you taken any interest in the FIA WTCC this year? "Yes definitely. I have tried to watch as many races as possible. I think it is a good championship with an excellent standard of drivers. Very entertaining."
What are your plans for next year? "I feel after three years in the Swedish Touring Car Championship it would be a natural progression to move to the FIA WTCC but nothing is arranged yet. It is certainly one of my future goals. For the moment I am looking forward to what the winter brings."
THEY SAID: QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Jonathan Ashman, President of the FIA Touring Car Commission, commenting on the ballast system in an interview to Autosport: "In qualifying at Oschersleben we had 13 drivers and cars from five different manufacturers within the same second. Then I'm thinking that there's not a lot wrong with it. I don't see any reason to change it next season."