BMW IS REFINING THE NEW CAR
For three days, from Tuesday to Thursday, BMW Team Deutschland tested in Monza developing the BMW 320i. The first day was lost due to a hard snowfall; afterwards the weather improved, but temperatures remained low.
Dirk and Jörg Müller took turns behind the wheel testing the 2005 car. "Our engineers are working hard to improve. Regulations are really tight, meaning that nobody can do big steps forward compared to last year. Our car was nearly at the maximum in 2004 and now it's getting difficult to find something more. We are working on the details, modifying bits and pieces here and there. The car doesn't look different, but we expect it to be a bit quicker than last year," declared Dirk Müller. According to unofficial timing, Jörg Müller was the fastest of the three days, with a lap in 2:00.0, while Dirk's best time was 2:00.2.
While the Schnitzer drivers were refining the new car, BMW Team Italy-Spain still worked on the 2004 car with Alessandro Zanardi and Antonio García. Team manager Roberto Ravaglia said: "Last year we were in trouble on the tracks where you need to jump over the kerbs, like Monza, Magny-Cours and Imola. We have worked a lot for improving and the feedbacks of our drivers after this test were very positive." García's best time (2:00.3) was one tenth of a second slower than Dirk's.
FIRST LAPS FOR THE 2005 HONDA ACCORD
The JAS Motorsport-built Honda Accord in 2005 specifications hit the track for the first time Wednesday at Monza, with Roberto Colciago at the wheel.
"We have worked very much during the winter, to update the car," team principal Alessandro Mariani explained. "Compared to the Accord that took part in last year's FIA ETCC, we have a number of improvements like suspension geometry, bumpers, aerodynamic package. We have also worked a lot on lightening the car. For us Monza was nothing more than a shake down to check that everything is working. Now we are ready to start the real technical development."
After a promising maiden season in the 2004 FIA ETCC, the Accord is seen as a serious challenger to the works cars, despite being independently run by JAS Motorsport. "We know that it has a greater potential compared to many of the other cars, and this is why we are working so hard to put together a high level programme with professional drivers. Our plan is running two cars for Colciago and Adriano De Micheli," said Mariani. They both are experienced touring car drivers: Colciago was a regular race winner in the FIA ETCC for Audi and Alfa Romeo, while De Micheli is the reigning Italian champion.
A NEW THROTTLE FOR ALEX ZANARDI Alessandro Zanardi has tested a mechanical hand-operated throttle on his BMW in Monza. "He had used an electric one so far, meaning that there was always a short gap between his action and the operation of the butterfly valve," explained Roberto Ravaglia.
"The mechanical solution presents a new problem: the handle is very hard and requires a great energy to be operated. In the next test we'll work on both options, before taking a decision on which way to go."
BERLIN HONOURS BMW WTCC HEROES
Roberto Ravaglia and Dirk Müller made a guest star appearance in Berlin, during the unveiling of the new BMW 3 Series road car. In a snowy evening, more than 500 guests gathered at the BMW Pavillion in Kurfürstendamm, where Dr Helmut Panke, CEO of BMW Ag, unveiled to the Berliner dealers and customers the new 3 Series that will be on sale to the public in a couple of weeks.
The ceremony included presentation to the guests of the BMW Team Deutschland's racing programme in the FIA WTCC.2004 FIA European Touring Car vice-champion Dirk Müller and Roberto Ravaglia, who claimed the 1987 World Touring Car Championship for BMW, were the evening's guest stars. "It's very exciting to face this new challenge in the FIA WTCC, and I feel very honoured for having the chance of following the steps of a great champion like Roberto," Dirk Müller said.
CHEVROLET: Chevrolet Racing will test again on the Spanish racetrack of Albacete next week, from Tuesday to Thursday. This will be the team's last private test, before joining the rest of the field in Monza, for the official testing session on March 22 and 23.
VALENCIA: Alfa Romeo AutoDelta, BMW Team Deutschland and SEAT Sport will test all together in Valencia next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Spanish team will also test in Albacete on Monday before moving to the Circuit of the Valencian Community. FORD: The Hotfiel Sport Team took part in the test session in Monza with one new Ford Focus. Patrick Bernhardt and Michael Funke took turns behind the wheel, covering a total of 50 laps. The team is currently focusing on the aerodynamic package and the suspension set up.
PROTEAM: Italy-based independent Proteam Motorsport tested one day in Magione and one in Monza. Stefano D'Aste worked on the car's set up, and timed good laps in Monza, where he was only one second off the BMW works drivers' pace. As for his new team-mate Giuseppe Cirò, he drove the S2000 BMW for the first time.
THEY SAID: QUOTES OF THE WEEK
Roberto Ravaglia about his 1987 WTCC title: "I've won many titles in my racing career, but becoming World Champion was my greatest achievement. I'm very excited to compete again in the WTCC, although I'm doing it as a team manager now. Which is definitely more difficult than being a driver."
COUNTDOWN: - 25 DAYS to the FIA WTCC Media Day, 22 March in Monza