Okayama: Series preview

ROUTE TO: OKAYAMA, JAPAN The 21st and 22nd rounds of the FIA WTCC will take place on November 1st at Okayama International Circuit, Japan. This is the second visit the championship pays to this demanding racetrack that winds up among the green...

ROUTE TO: OKAYAMA, JAPAN

The 21st and 22nd rounds of the FIA WTCC will take place on November 1st at Okayama International Circuit, Japan.

This is the second visit the championship pays to this demanding racetrack that winds up among the green hills of the Honshu island and hosted the Pacific Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1994 and 1995.

In 2008 - on WTCC's first visit - Japanese fans flocked to the track in spite of very wet weather. BMW Team Germany's Augusto Farfus set pole position on the dry track, but with the Brazilian and title contender Gabriele Tarquini involved in a first turn incident, Rickard Ridell's SEAT Leon TDI took advantage of the wet asphalt and won the first race from the BMW cars of Jorg Muller and Andy Priiaulx, to secure the Manufacturers' Championship for the Spanish make.

Independent drivers created a surprise in the second race. Stefano D'Aste went off while chasing with Rydell for third, Sergio Hernandez claimed his first podium result (third) while Tom Coronel grabbed a fantastic victory in SUNRED's petrol-powered SEAT Leon. On the drying track, the Dutchman rejected Farfus' attacks to become the first non factory driver to win a WTCC race.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP RESUMES AFTER FIVE WEEKS

The FIA will resume in Japan for rounds 21 and 22 after a five-week break following the races in Imola. Let's take a short recap of the situation on the eve of the two final events of the season: Okayama and Macau (November 22nd).

Gabriele Tarquini of SEAT Sport leads the Drivers' Championship with 109 points, seven ahead of his team-mate, the reigning world champion Yvan Muller. BMW Team Germany's Augusto Farfus is the only driver who can still threaten the SEAT men in the title fight, but he needs to fill a gap of 17 points.

SEAT and BMW are close in the Manufacturers' Championship, led by the Spanish brand with a 19-point margin.

An exciting battle is set to decide the Independents' Trophy: Tom Coronel (SUNRED Engineering) is chased by Felix Porteiro (Proteam Motorsport), but Franz Engstler (Liqui Moly Team Engstler) and Stefano D'Aste (Wiechers-Sport) are within striking distance.

THE WORD TO THE JAPANESE DRIVERS

Three local drivers will make guest appearances in the FIA WTCC event at Okayama, all at the wheel of BMW independent cars: Seiji Ara (Proteam Motorsport), Nobuteru Taniguchi (Wiechers-Sport), Masaki Kano (Liqui Moly Team Engstler). The latter is not new to the championship as he raced last year in Monza, Okayama and Macau, while Ara and Taniguchi face their maiden WTCC appearances. Let's see what their expectations are.

Seiji Ara: "I am really excited as WTCC means close fighting, which is the real thrill of motorsports and fascinates Japanese fans and myself. I have a reputation as long distance driver, because I won Le Mans and Super GT rounds, but in all the races you have to drive as fast as possible. So there are no big differences between endurance and WTCC sprint races. I am so thrilled to compete in such a high-quality series and can't wait to take the wheel!"

Nobuteru Taniguchi: "The key is getting in tune with WTCC racing in such a limited time. To achieve satisfactory results I have stay cool, and I have high expectations, because I aim for winning the Independents' class. I will drive again for the team in Macau and I would be pleased to consider the opportunity to join the championship for a full season in case a team would like me as a driver."

BRAZILIAN DRIVER JOINS SUNRED

João Paulo Lima de Oliveira will join SUNRED Engineering for the next WTCC event in Okayama.

The 28-year-old Brazilian is a favourite of Japanese motorsport fans, being a regular in the local championships since 2004. Lima de Oliveira boasts and outstanding racing CV and vast international experience. After claiming the South American Formula 3 title in the Scholarship class at the age of 18, he moved to Europe to win the German F3 championship in 2003. The year after he settled in Japan, where he collected another F3 title in 2005.

From 2006 he has taken part in both the Japanese Super GT and Formula Nippon championships, establishing himself as one of the fastest and consistent drivers. He claimed Super GT race wins sharing the wheel of Nissan Z and GT-R cars with Seiji Ara. The two of them will find themselves on opposite sides in the WTCC, as Ara will drive a Wiechers-Sport BMW.

THOMPSON AND ENGSTLER IN THE ETC CUP

James Thompson and Franz Engstler are among the favourite drivers who will be fighting to win the FIA European Touring Car Cup this weekend in Portugal, at Braga's Circuito Vasco Samerio.

While Engstler will drive a BMW 320si run by his own Liqui Moly Team Engstler, Thompson will join the Hartmann Honda Racing in a Honda Accord car. During the current season the Briton was part of the team in a number of rounds of the Danish Touring Car Championship and scored four race wins.

The level of the field of the Super 2000 class in the fifth edition of the ETC Cup is very high and promises exciting and close competition. Other major contenders are double European Cup winner Michel Nykjær (Chevrolet Lacetti) who aims for a third consecutive title, SEAT Eurocup new champion Norbert Michelisz (SEAT Leon), experienced touring car racers like Vincent Radermecker (Chevrolet Lacetti) and Tomas Engstrom (Honda Accord), ambitious young lions such as Harry Vaulkhard (Chevrolet Lacetti) and Per Poulsen (Honda Accord) and a trio of very fast locals: Fèlix Duarte da Costa (Chevrolet Lacetti), Jose Monroy (Chevrolet Lacetti) and Francisco Carvalho (SEAT Leon).

MICHEL VAILLANT'S TRIBUTE TO LOUIS CHEVROLET

Louis Chevrolet, his adventurous life, and his long-lasting contribution to the automobile industry and motorsports, which has a modern materialization in the Chevrolet WTCC team, are celebrated in the forthcoming "Dossiers Michel Vaillant" monographic book.

Michel Vaillant and Vaillante are names that need no presentation in all the countries where the motorsport comic books created by Jean Graton have been translated. The driver and his family's car factory are the evergreen characters of a saga that fascinates many generations of motor racing fans of all ages since decades.

The "Dossiers Michel Vaillant" is a more recent product of Editions Graton, which combines texts, photographs and comics to tell the "real" story of "real" characters of motoring like J.M. Fangio, Ayrton Senna, Enzo Ferrari, Soichiro Honda, James Dean and Steve McQueen.

The eleventh volume of the series pays tribute to Louis Chevrolet and tells the incredible story of the Swiss-born watch and car mechanic that emigrated to Quebec first and to the US later to become an acclaimed driver and the co-founder of the Chevrolet brand.

COUNTDOWN: - 9 DAYS to the 2009 FIA WTCC Race of Japan - 31st October / 1st November, in Okayama

-credit: wtcc

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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers Seiji Ara , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Ayrton Senna , James Thompson , Nobuteru Taniguchi , Augusto Farfus , Sergio Hernandez , Franz Engstler , Felix Porteiro , Gabriele Tarquini , Stefano D'Aste , Tomas Engstrom , Vincent Radermecker , Harry Vaulkhard , Norbert Michelisz , Masaki Kano , Per Poulsen
Teams Proteam Motorsport