BMW national teams get European WTCC season underway in Pau. Munich, 11th May 2009. The action comes thick and fast in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC): just 14 days after the series' successful debut in Morocco, this weekend sees...
BMW national teams get European WTCC season underway in Pau.
Munich, 11th May 2009. The action comes thick and fast in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC): just 14 days after the series' successful debut in Morocco, this weekend sees races seven and eight on the programme. After the long straights in Marrakech (MA), a real street circuit awaits the BMW national teams at the curtain-raiser to the European season in Pau (FR) - with high kerbs and a lot of tight corners.
The compensation weights remain unchanged for the BMW drivers after the two races in Africa. BMW Team UK's Andy Priaulx (GB), the two BMW Team Germany drivers, Augusto Farfus (BR) and Jorg Muller (DE), and Sergio Hernandez from BMW Team Italy-Spain must once again carry an additional 40 kilograms in France. Hernandez' team-mate, Alessandro Zanardi (IT), the only BMW driver with a six- speed sequential gearbox, will again be 20 kilograms lighter in his BMW 320si WTCC.
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
"I like the atmosphere in Pau. It's a mini Monaco and a very good circuit for the spectators. Last year the two races there went fantastically well for us. It could be a bit more challenging this season. The car must cope well with the high kerbs and offer good traction. A strong grid position is paramount."
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"Since I've been racing in Pau in the WTCC, I've not had any luck at this circuit. When I appeared there in the Formula 3000 series, I was on the top step of the podium. I shall have this positive memory in the back of my mind, as I finally aim to pick up my first points in Pau."
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
"Pau is a very special place for me. I suffered one of the worst crashes of my career there in 2007, when I rolled the car in qualifying. Despite that I came back to win the second race. Last year I also managed to finish up on the top of the podium. That just goes to show how at home I feel in Pau."
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"In 2007 I narrowly missed out on points in Pau by finishing ninth. To date this remains my most successful race on this street circuit. Following the difficult weekend in Morocco, I'm fired up to finally add another good result to my tally. I like the track, although overtaking manoeuvres are a true rarity there."
Sergio Hernandez (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"The Pau circuit should suit us much better than the track in Morocco, which made it difficult for us with its long straights and tight chicanes. A glance at the past years' results in France proves that we have always been competitive there. I will try hard to give my team reason to celebrate again."
History and Background:
Augusto Farfus dominated proceedings in the first of last year's races at the "Circuit de Pau Ville" last year. Having secured pole position in qualifying, he then finished a record 17.851 seconds ahead of SEAT driver Yvan Muller (FR) in second. Farfus also set the fastest lap to complete the "hat-trick" at the narrow street circuit. In the second race of the day, Andy Priaulx coped best with a wet track to clinch a valuable victory.
Farfus made the headlines in 2007 in Pau, having rolled his car spectacularly during qualifying. After the initial concern for the driver, the Schnitzer Motorsport team were forced to put in some extra shifts. As a result, the celebrations were even greater when Farfus crossed the line first to seal victory ahead of Priaulx.
The two World Touring Car Championship races in Pau are the only FIA World Championship races to be held on French soil this season.
Motor racing venues as steeped in history as the "Circuit de Pau Ville" are rare. The inaugural race on the narrow streets was held back in 1901. In 1930 Pau was the venue for the very first "Grand Prix" in the history of the sport. Up to this point in time the label "GP" was used only for horse races. Since then, the "Grand Prix de Pau" has become an institution on the motorsport scene in France. In 2009 it will be held for the 69th time, while the World Touring Car Championship will be the main event for the third time.
From 1950 to 1963, Pau was also the venue for ten Formula One races. However, these races did not count as World Championship rounds. Still, the record book for the events looks like a "Who's Who" of motor racing in those days: among the winners on the track, that today is 2.760 kilometres long, were the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Jack Brabham and Jim Clark.
Up to 1984 Pau was a regular venue for the European Formula 2 Championship that was replaced by Formula 3000 in 1985. Because of this, mainly up-and-coming young racing drivers took up the challenge represented by the demanding street circuit. Jorg Muller succeeded in shining there at the wheel of a Formula 3000 single-seater. In 1996 Pau was the venue for the second round of the season, and when the 72-lap race was over, Kenny Brack, who went on to win the Indianapolis 500, was the only driver who hadn't been lapped by the German. At the end of the day, Muller crossed the finish line with a 5.275-second lead over the Swede - and at the end of the season won the championship.
Pau has some 80,000 inhabitants and is - after Bordeaux - the second biggest city in the Aquitaine region. Due to its closeness to the Pyrenees, it has been a regular venue for legs of the "Tour de France". More than 60 times the most famous cycle race in the world has crossed the city.
The two WTCC races are both run over 19 laps. This is a total distance of 52.44 kilometres. The first race begins on Sunday at 13:05hrs local time (12:05hrs BST), with race two starting at 15:20hrs (14:20hrs BST).