ETCC: Dubai: Season finale preview

And so the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend draws to a close - with a truly exceptional three days of racing. For the very first time in its three-year history, the multi-platform series will stage a flyaway race, outside the European...

And so the 2004 season of the LG Super Racing Weekend draws to a close - with a truly exceptional three days of racing. For the very first time in its three-year history, the multi-platform series will stage a flyaway race, outside the European boundaries, when the LG Super Racing Weekend visits the brand-new Dubai Autodrome, in the United Arab Emirates.

The United Arab Emirates is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The federation was formally established on 2 December 1971. It occupies an area of 83,000 sq km along the south-eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It is surrounded by Qatar to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the north and east. Four-fifths of the UAE is desert, yet it is a country of contrasting landscapes, with sand dunes, oases, mountains and plains. The weather is hot and dry, with temperatures likely to be around 40C and the chance of rain almost nil. The Dubai Autodrome was completed earlier this year; the LG Super Racing Weekend will be the first major international motorsports event held there.

Following the working week in the UAE, where Friday is the day of rest, the race 'weekend' will run from Wednesday to Friday, with short shakedown sessions for the FIA GT cars on the Tuesday and for the FIA ETCC cars on the Wednesday. With the circuit new to all drivers, it should be a very interesting weekend.

Dubai will see the final two races in the FIA European Touring Car Championship; not only the last two rounds of the season, which will decide the 2004 Drivers' Championship, but the final races of the series in this configuration, as next year it will be replaced the prestigious new FIA World Touring Car Championship. But before moving on, the leading BMW drivers will have to fight it out for the crown. Dirk Muller currently has a 12-point lead ahead of Andy Priaulx, with Jorg Muller a further five points adrift. With twenty points on offer, anything could happen. BMW claimed the 2004 Manufacturers' title in Oschersleben, following up on their 2003 win, while BMW driver Tom Coronel, driving for Carly Motors, secured the Independents' title.

With the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup having come to a successful conclusion in Oschersleben, when Scott Sharp received his trophy, the FIA European Touring Car Championship, the FIA GT Championship and the Formula Renault V6 Eurocup will be joined by the Formula X series in Dubai.

DIFFERENT DAYS, DIFFERENT TIMES

The event will start on Tuesday, with private testing for the Renault V6 cars and a thirty-minute shakedown session for the FIA GT cars. Wednesday will see free practice for the FIA GT as well as free practice and qualifying for the Formula Renault cars, as well as the FIA ETCC shakedown. Thursday will be run according to the usual Saturday schedule, with the FIA ETCC practice and qualifying, the FIA GT qualifying and the Formula Renault Grand Race. Friday's timetable has been rearranged due to the likely temperatures. The Formula Renault Super Sprint race will take place in the morning, with the FIA ETCC races in the early afternoon. The 500-km GT race will take place between 15:00 and 18:00.

DUBAI ACCORDING TO DAVID TERRIEN

David Terrien, 2001 FIA N-GT Champion, with JMB Competition and Christian Pescatori, and runner-up in 2002 with Larbre Competition, is now working at the Dubai Autodrome and has had a good opportunity to get to know the circuit.

"I don't think that anyone knows the circuit better than me. You might expect a circuit in the desert to be flat and uninteresting, but this is anything but ! The track goes up and down and is great fun to drive; there should be plenty of opportunities for overtaking.

Turn 1 is like Paddock Bend at Brands Hatch, although with less change of altitude. This is followed by a fast sequence, right - left - right, in fourth gear, which is very fast. That leads into a very tight hairpin, which is quite complicated to negotiate. Turn 4 is a wide, banked left-hander, taken in 3rd or 4th gear, which could be quite slippery early in the meeting. This leads into the long back straight, over a kilometre long, which goes up and down, slightly like the Donington back straight.

At the end of the straight you have to brake really hard for turn 5, a right-handed corner. Then you are accelerating for turn six, left handed, in 3rd or 4th gear, fast and great fun. You slide from beginning to end, and it goes up and up. By the time you get to turn 7, you have grip and power problems; it is a right-handed corner taken in 2nd or 3rd gear. This is followed by a long downhill section, taken flat out in 6th, which ends in a delicate braking manoeuvre for a left-handed hairpin at the end, slightly banked, which closes at the end.

Coming out of the banking, you accelerate towards a complicated right hander, a classic ninety-degree corner. Then you go uphill for the last corner, which is similar to the last right-hander in Barcelona, although slightly slower, taken in 3rd gear. It is a really great circuit, very interesting to drive."

Circuit length : 5394 m

Direction : Exit the Sheikh Zayed highway at interchange 4, turn left and drive for 7 minutes until reaching the Emirates Highway at the Dubai Autodrome Roundabout.

FIA ETCC Pre-event News:

Dubai is the first race meeting outside Europe in the history of the FIA European Touring Car Championship. An appropriate prelude to next year, when the page will turn and the series will become a World Championship.

For the second consecutive season the fight for the Drivers' title will be decided at the final round. However, unlike last year's season finale in Monza, when Alfa Romeo's Gabriele Tarquini beat BMW's Jorg Muller by one point only, now the title fight is a family affair between three drivers of the German make. During the latest meeting in Oschersleben, the outgoing champion Tarquini saw his hopes of winning another title -- re-launched two weeks earlier in Imola -- vanishing after only three laps of the first race, when he retired due to a transmission failure that also prevented him from starting the second race.

This left the BMW drivers free to make their own races, with no threat of losing the championship in favour of Alfa Romeo. Andy Priaulx won Race 1, but he was victim of a race accident in the second one; just like Jorg Muller. Thus Dirk Muller was able to score important points, stretching his leading margin in the championship to 12 and 17 points ahead of Priaulx and Jorg. With 20 points still to be awarded, this leaves only theoretical chances to his fellow BMW team-mates. However the weight handicap situation sees Dirk on the maximum of 40 kg, while Priaulx has 20 and Jorg 10; other drivers carrying ballast are Augusto Farfus (30 kg) and Rickard Rydell (10).

BMW: WHO WILL BE THE CHAMPION?
In Oschersleben BMW mathematically claimed the Manufacturers' Championship for the second year in a row. "I'm very pleased," BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen commented. "Because as a car Manufacturer, the Manufacturers Championship is the most important for us. It's a great day for BMW and BMW Motorsport; it was great sport, and the Championship is about to become even stronger as the WTCC next year."

The two final rounds of the series in Dubai are due to offer a thrilling duel among three BMW fellow drivers, with BMW Team Great Britain's Andy Priaulx eager to start his ultimate assault in an attempt to oust Dirk Muller from the lead, while Jorg Muller is expected to back his own team-mate. "I might be leading, but I definitely don't think that the Championship is over yet. There are still twenty points available, and if I have a problem with the car, like Tarquini had in Oschersleben, it could get close," said Dirk.

ALFA ROMEO AIM TO FINISH ON A HIGH NOTE
While the BMW men will be fighting for the title, the Alfa Romeo drivers wish to finish the season on a high note: "We all want to make up for the unlucky weekend we had in Germany. From my personal point of view, after having collected a number of podiums, I will try and fight to claim my first win in the Championship," declared AutoDelta driver Augusto Farfus.

Like in Oschersleben, AutoDelta lines up a four-car team, with James Thompson definitively integrated into the team, alongside the original trio of Tarquini-Giovanardi-Farfus. The Englishman is just back from a triumphant weekend in Donington, where he was crowned champion of the British Touring Car Championship, beating his Vauxhall team-mate Yvan Muller by just one point. This was Thompson's second title in three years, the perfect farewell to a championship he is leaving for a full campaign in the 2005 FIA WTCC.

SEAT: MORE WINS TO FOLLOW
In Oschersleben SEAT Sport obtained its first race win since joining the FIA ETCC at the beginning of 2003. The second race in Germany turned out to be a triumphal march for Rickard Rydell, as the Swedish driver snatched the lead from Coronel, and then resisted Dirk Muller's return. It was a well-deserved honour for him and also for SEAT, since the Toledo Cupra cars have become progressively more competitive as the season progressed.

SEAT Sport's Director Jaime Puig commented: "I'm absolutely delighted with this result. We've been very confident that our first win wasn't far off for a while now. They say that the first victory is the most difficult; I doubt the others will be easy, but after today I'm very confident that they will come!"

FIA ETCC News in Brief

PEUGEOT: "MAG" IS BACK -- After lining up only one car -- for Sandro Sardelli -- in Imola and Oschersleben, the Peugeot Sport Engineering team is back to its two-car formation. Former F1 start Jan Magnussen rejoins the FIA ETCC at the wheel of the 5-door Peugeot 307, after he skipped the latest two meeting in order to help the team in their Danish Touring Car Championship campaign.

FORD: ONE CAR FOR RS-LINE -- The RS-Line Rotpunkt Sport decided to miss their home race at Oschersleben, in order to return in good shape for the final meeting of the season. In Dubai the team will run one Ford Focus for their regular driver Sebastian Grunert.

TROPHY: FINAL RUSH FOR SECOND - Carly Motors' Tom Coronel might have clinched the Independents' Trophy title, but (c) Photo 4 / FIA ETCC privateer drivers are expected to offer more thrills in Dubai. Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano and JAS Motorsport's Alessandro Balzan are in a close fight for the second position, with the former leading by a 5-point margin. Balzan is eager to make up for Oschersleben, where a broken suspension put him out of both races.

TEAMS: AUTODELTA CHASES SCHNITZER - The FIA ETCC Team's Trophy is still wide open. With only two rounds left, the BMW Team Deutschland Schnitzer Motorsport is leading with 198 points, but they are closely chased by AutoDelta Squadra Corse. The Alfa Romeo's works team are 10 points behind, with plenty of opportunity to overturn the situation.

ROSENBLAD: AIMING FOR A WIN -- Carl Rosenblad and his Crawford Racing BMW 320i have showed consistent progress throughout the season. After the Swedish driver scored his first championship points in Oschersleben, a win in the Independents Trophy now appears within his reach.

-fia-

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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Scott Sharp , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Carl Rosenblad , David Terrien , Augusto Farfus , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Salvatore Tavano , Mario Theissen , Jaime Puig
Teams Larbre Competition