ETCC: Hockenheimring: Round four preview

The fourth LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season will take place in Germany, at the Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg. This will be the first time that the famous circuit, which hosts the German Formula One Grand Prix every year, will welcome...

The fourth LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season will take place in Germany, at the Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg. This will be the first time that the famous circuit, which hosts the German Formula One Grand Prix every year, will welcome the multi-platform series, and it will mark the first of two German rounds in the 2004 calendar, with a return visit to Oschersleben on September 19th.

There has been a circuit in the German town of Hockenheim since 1932. It has seen a number of changes over the years, with the Motodrom stadium being built in 1966. The first Formula One race took place at the circuit in August 1970. In January 2002, work began on reconstruction and modernisation measures, reducing the length of the circuit to 4.574 km. The circuit no longer has the long power sections through the forests, but retains the famous slow and technical stadium section, to the delight of the spectators.

The FIA European Touring Car Championship is returning to Hockenheim for the first time since it was revived in 2001. Previously, the championship visited the circuit once before, in 1986. Back then, the Volvo 240 Turbo driven by Cecotto-Lindstrom won the race from the Schnitzer BMW 635 Csi of Ravaglia-Quester with only a 2-second margin. Victory in the second division went to the Mercedes 190E of Snobeck-Cudini, while the Swiss team of Eichmann-P. Muller won the first division in a Toyota Corolla. Returning to modern times, the third event of the season proved to be a good one for BMW, with Dirk Muller and Andy Priaulx winning the two French rounds, and they will be surely keen to repeat these results on home ground. However, these excellent results mean that some of the major home stars, including Jorg and Dirk Muller, will be heavily ballasted for Hockenheim. BMW currently leads the Manufacturers' classification, while AutoDelta's Gabriele Tarquini leads the Drivers'.


German driver Frank Diefenbacher is one of a growing group of up-and-coming young drivers in the FIA European Touring Car Championship. Aged 22, from Pforzheim, he has been driving for SEAT Sport since last year. In 2003, he claimed SEAT's first podium at the German circuit of Oschersleben. In Magny-Cours last week, he set his best-ever qualifying time, starting from third on the grid.

"Hockenheim is very much my local circuit -- it's only about half an hour away from where I live and I know it well. The only problem area is the long back straight down to the hairpin, but the section around the motordrome should really suit the Toledo. If you look at the team's overall performance, we've been to three very different circuits and had very good results in qualifying and warm-up, but some incredible bad luck during the races. I think it's just a matter of time now before we're regularly scoring podium finishes."

Circuit length : 4574 m
Location : 15 km south of Heidelberg
Directions : From Frankfurt, take the A5 Motorway southbound for Mannheim/Karlsruhe; take the Hockenheim exit. The track is east of the town.

After the first six rounds of the season, Alfa Romeo and BMW have won three races each. And their drivers are deeply involved in the title fight. There have been five different race winners so far, with Gabriele Tarquini (AutoDelta Alfa Romeo), the only man to claim more than one race win so far, currently in the lead of the Drivers' Championship. However he is closely followed by Jorg and Dirk Muller (both BMW Team Deutschland), who are five and six points behind him respectively. Fabrizio Giovanardi (AutoDelta Alfa Romeo), Andy Priaulx (BMW Team Great Britain) and Augusto Farfus (AutoDelta Alfa Romeo) are a few further points adrift, meaning six drivers separated by only 16 points. In the Manufacturers' Championship the fight is even closer, with BMW leading Alfa Romeo by 2 points.

Following the previous meeting in Magny-Cours, where Dirk Muller and Priaulx both scored their first wins of the season, Jorg Muller's car will be carrying the maximum 40-kg handicap weight in Hockenheim, while Dirk and Tarquini will have 30 kg and Farfus 10.

However, race after race, the other Manufacturers are improving their competitiveness, threatening to interrupt this Alfa Romeo-BMW duet. The SEAT Sport's cars fought for the top positions in Valencia and Magny-Cours, and only bad luck prevented them from achieving some brilliant results. The performances of the new Honda Accord and the Peugeot 307 are also improving quickly, and soon they might cause a surprise.

After their clear domination in Valencia, the Alfa Romeo 156 works cars struggled to keep the pace in Magny-Cours. Tarquini's second position in Race 2, and Farfus's two third places, enabled the Italian Manufacturer to maintain the lead in the Drivers' Championship. However, in the Manufacturers' Championship, Alfa Romeo has been demoted to second position. This pushed the AutoDelta team to organise two days of testing in Adria, in order to find better set-up solutions for the next meeting in Hockenheim. With Tarquini racing in the historical Mille Miglia, it was Fabrizio Giovanardi's turn to test in Adria.

Confirming that Magny-Cours suit the 320i car extremely well, BMW drivers won both races in France, enhancing their ambitions in the title fight. In Hockenheim, the Bavarian make will be supported by its home fans, and is carefully preparing the event. The three works teams stayed in Magny-Cours on Monday, for testing. Dirk Muller, Jorg Muller and Andy Priaulx were able to repeat their qualifying lap times, while Kurt Mollekens improved by half-a-second. BMW Team Italy-Spain's men, Antonio Garcia and Alessandro Zanardi, shared the team's third car, and the Italian improved his qualifying lap by eighth tenths, despite not using new tyres.

In Magny-Cours, Frank Diefenbacher's third qualifying time and Jordi Gene's fastest lap in Race 1, proved that the SEAT Toledo Cupras are competitive. However, bad luck and technical failures prevented them from achieving any great results. SEAT Sport is working at a frantic pace, and while the three cars from Magny-Cours were checked in the workshop, Rickard Rydell drove a fourth Toledo in Magny-Cours, during the test on Monday. He set the fastest time, clocking a lap of 1:48.9 which was four tenths faster than the pole position set by Jorg Muller. "The test went really well; we worked on some small things in the car's set-up. Magny-Cours showed that we've got the pace, now we've got to start finishing races on the podium," Rydell said.

The Peugeot Sport Engineering team is moving up to the second step in their ETCC programme. After Jan Magnussen drove an interim three-door 307, which was an upgrade from the winning car from the 2003 Danish Touring Car Championship, he might race the five-door 307 in Hockenheim. This brand new car has been specifically designed and developed by the team for the FIA S2000 regulations, in close cooperation with Peugeot Sport. "It is still doubtful if we will race the new car in Hockenheim, because it is currently undergoing a chassis test at Michelin Competition department in Clermont Ferrand. This test lasts one week and it will be finished on Monday morning. This is why we have prepared the 3-door as well, just in case--" Magnussen revealed.

The test the Peugeot is currently undergoing, was made possible thanks to a machine conceived and built by the Michelin Competition technicians, which is called the Beta Bench. This machine can simulate a rally or a circuit race, for any competition car -- from F1 downwards -- giving the engineers important clues on everything related to the chassis: suspension geometry, steering, dampers, etc

JAS Motorsport's brand new Honda Accord 2.0i showed its potential during its first outing at Magny-Cours. In both races, the Japanese car, driven by Alessandro Balzan, was fighting for points positions. Running door-to-door with the best independent drivers, Balzan and the Accord were very impressive. In order to accelerate the car's technical development, the team took part in the Monday test at Magny-Cours. Balzan improved his qualifying lap by 0.8 seconds, going down to 1:50.6. "We have focused on the set-up, and now the car is much better on the kerbs of the chicanes than it was on Sunday," Balzan commented.

Hockenheim is the home racetrack for the RS-Line Rotpunkt Sport. And obviously the German team and their drivers, Sebastian Grunert and Roland Asch, are looking forward to the meeting. "In the race, the pace of our Ford Focus cars is now two seconds behind the front runners'," says team manager Reiner Stiefel. "We hope to close this gap a bit further, as we know the track very well, and this should help us while working on the set-up. We had no time to improve the car again after Magny-Cours, but this weekend there is the first round of the German championship in Oschersleben, and this will give us some more information from the three Hotfiel Sport Focus cars racing there."

The FIA ETCC current leader, Gabriele Tarquini, is taking part in the Mille Miglia at the wheel of a 1953 Alfa Romeo 3000 CM car, which was originally driven by Juan-Manuel Fangio. The historic race left Brescia yesterday evening, and will be back there tomorrow evening, after three stages for a total 1600 km. Tarquini, who is accompanied by his AutoDelta team manager Monica Sipsz as a co-driver, is not the only professional driver in the race, as the Mercedes works team is represented by the double F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen (who shares a 1952 300 SL with his wife Erja) and the former F1 GP winner Jochen Mass (in a 1955 300 SLR).

So far Tom Coronel and his Carly Motors BMW 320i have won three rounds out of six of the Independents Trophy. However, this it will not be an easy season for the Dutch driver, as he has some competitive opponents. Stefano D'Aste proved to be quick and consistent with the Proteam Motorsport BMW 320i, and he is now second in the classification, only three points behind. Now at the wheel of the new Honda Accord, Alessandro Balzan showed great potential in Magny-Cours, as did Oregon Team's three young men: Michele Bartyan (winner of the first race), Luca Rangoni and Salvatore Tavano. The fight for the trophy promises to be very tough. With Paulien Zwart still in the hospital, and her father Klaas committed to the Monte Carlo historic GP, the driver of the second Carly Motors BMW has not yet been announced.


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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Mika Hakkinen , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Jochen Mass , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Kurt Mollekens , Luca Rangoni , Michele Bartyan , Salvatore Tavano , Stefano D'Aste , Roland Asch , Paulien Zwart