BMW touring car drivers line up for the first street race of the season in Pau.
Munich, 29th May 2007. It is not only in Formula One circles that races on spectacular street circuits are a hot topic at present. This coming weekend, the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) will make its first visit of the season to the tight and twisty confines of a city-centre track. The 67th Grand Prix de Pau will see the BMW drivers continue their hunt for championship points in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The WTCC teams will also go racing on street circuits in Porto and Macau later on in the year.
BMW has established a firm grip on the drivers' and manufacturers' championships going into rounds seven and eight of the WTCC. BMW Team Germany's Jorg Muller travels to Pau at the top of the standings with 31 points to date. BMW Team UK driver Andy Priaulx (GBR) is lying in second place on the same points as Muller, while Augusto Farfus (BRA) - also competing for BMW Team Germany - is back in third on 28 points. BMW heads the manufacturers' championship on 81 points, a 19-point advantage over SEAT.
While the BMW Team Italy-Spain drivers, Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) and Felix Porteiro, will be hoping to get their points totals clocking up again in Pau after a difficult time of late, the top three find themselves facing a variety of different challenges. Muller and Priaulx, for example, will have to contend with 55 kilograms of handicap weight - more than any other driver in the field. This success ballast becomes a serious burden at the Circuit de Pau, which is littered with uphill sections. Farfus, meanwhile, has an even tougher job on his hands. The 23-year-old was hit with a grid penalty after his collision with Tom Coronel (NLD) in Valencia and will start Sunday morning's race ten places further back from where he qualifies. As with the majority of street circuits, overtaking is decidedly tricky in Pau. Which makes it impossible to overstate the importance for all the drivers, and Farfus in particular, of a good qualifying performance as the Brazilian will be carrying 40 kg of success ballast in France.
Muller already knows what it feels like to stand on the top step of the podium in Pau. More than a decade ago the German driver won a Formula 3000 race here - and now he returns as the leader of the World Touring Car Championship.
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"It has been a while since I last raced in Pau. It was 1996, in fact, and I won the Formula 3000 race on my first visit there. I still remember lapping everybody in the field up to Kenny Brack in second place. The course will suit touring car racing. The racing line will frequently take the cars over kerbstones, which is quite unusual for a street circuit. Spring and damper tuning will be extremely important here. Otherwise it is a typical street circuit with crash barriers hugging the track on both sides. As far as speeds are concerned, this circuit lies somewhere between the super-fast Macau and rather slower Porto. The fact that I'm currently leading the championship will not influence my approach to the race weekend. You need to maintain full concentration in Pau, though, as any mistakes will be punished immediately."