Battle for WTCC title continues as second half of the season starts in Spa. Munich, 25th July 2005. After its Mexican adventure, the FIA World Touring Car Championship 2005 (WTCC) returns to Europe this weekend. Against the backdrop of the 24...
Battle for WTCC title continues as second half of the season starts in Spa.
Munich, 25th July 2005. After its Mexican adventure, the FIA World Touring Car Championship 2005 (WTCC) returns to Europe this weekend. Against the backdrop of the 24 Hour Race on the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps, rounds eleven and twelve of the championship will be held on Saturday. After the recent races in Puebla which saw only Antonio Garcia (ESP) of BMW Team Italy-Spain and BMW Team UK driver Andy Priaulx (GBR) picking up championship points, the yield for the BMW national teams is expected to be bigger once again in Belgium.
The 6.976-kilometre circuit in the Ardennes is the longest on the WTCC calendar and resembles a rollercoaster. On the long uphill sections, engine power is paramount. The BMW drivers are able to draw on 275 bhp generated by the P54 engine in the rear of their BMW 320i. However, in Spa-Francorchamps more than anywhere else, the weight handicaps will have a great impact on the performance of the cars. In 1921 the circuit was inaugurated with a motorcycle race. Since 1950, Formula One has been hosted by Spa-Francorchamps 38 times.
The European Touring Car Championship came to Belgium three times from 2002 to 2004. Four out of the six races were won by BMW drivers. Jörg Müller (GER) alone climbed to the top of the podium twice for BMW Team Deutschland, while Priaulx and the current championship leader Dirk Müller (GER), who is also racing for BMW Team Deutschland, claimed victory here as well. Arguably the most famous section of the circuit is Eau Rouge, a left-right combination through a dip that still rates as a heart-stopping turn.
Bart Mampaey, team manager of BMW Team UK, is the only Belgian represented in the WTCC. Under his leadership, the RBM Team based in Mechelen is fielding the BMW 320i driven by Priaulx. "For me Spa is of course a very special event," says Mampaey. "The circuit is undoubtedly one of the most attractive in the world. In 2003 Andy managed to celebrate victory there. It would be great to have a repeat performance this year. However, the weather in Spa is always unpredictable. Let's wait and see."
Ahead of the races on the Belgian track in its natural setting, the competition in the WTCC rankings is tighter than ever. Behind Dirk Müller, who leads with 47 points, are several drivers who can justifiably nurture hopes for the first World Championship title in touring car racing since 1987. Priaulx is in third place with 42 points and Garcia is three points adrift of him in fourth. Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy- Spain currently has six points, placing him 13th.
In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW and Alfa Romeo are joint leaders with 129 points each. SEAT is in third place with 98 points.