ETCC: Valencia: Round two preview

For the second LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season, the teams and drivers will head south, to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain. Although the multi-platform series has visited Spain every year since it started in 2001, this is...

For the second LG Super Racing Weekend of the 2004 season, the teams and drivers will head south, to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, Spain.

Although the multi-platform series has visited Spain every year since it started in 2001, this is the first time it will be going to Valencia. The circuit, 4005 m long, was opened in 1999, and is a modern circuit, which gives excellent viewing conditions to the spectators.

Honours were even in the FIA European Touring Car Championship at Monza, with one win apiece for Alfa Romeo and BMW, and young rookie Augusto Farfus taking the Championship lead after winning his first-ever touring car race. The second meeting, on new ground, will see Farfus and Jörg Müller both carry 40 kg penalty weight, while Andy Priaulx will be on 20 kg. This will be the home round for the SEAT cars, which made a good start to the season, by scoring six points in Italy, and for BMW Team Italy-Spain, whose driver Antonio Garcia will be aiming for his first win.

Other races making up the busy timetable include the Formula Renault 2000 Eurocup, with two races on the Saturday, and the European Alfa Challenge, which races on Saturday and Sunday with a busy field of Alfa 147 cars.

VALENCIA - ACCORDING TO ANTONIO GARCIA

Twenty-three years old, Antonio Garcia is entering his second season of touring car competition, after a successful single-seater career, including the Karting World Championship and 2000 Open Telefonica by Nissan series, and a brief interlude in the FIA GT Championship, where he won the N-GT class at the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and took four pole positions. For 2004, he has stayed with BMW Team Italy-Spain, alongside Alessandro Zanardi

"I think this a circuit which suits touring cars very well, first of all because there are a lot of points where it is possible to overtake, which will provide a good show. The first two corners will see a lot of fighting and overtaking. Secondly, the characteristics of the track means there should not be big gaps; I expect two action-packed races, with the leading cars closely grouped. As for the cars, both Alfa Romeo and BMW should be equally competitive. The difference in top speed will not be as important as it was in Monza, while acceleration out of the corners should prove decisive. And this will be good for us. It will be interesting to see how the tyres will last over the race distance - although the asphalt here is not very abrasive - and even more how the package car-tyres will endure the hot temperatures. As we have had a very cold winter, nobody had the chance to make a proper test with the new tyres on a hot asphalt. In Valencia it could be very hot, which can really make the difference."

Circuit length : 4005 m
Location : 30m east of Valencia

The FIA European Touring Car Championship is facing its first official visit to the Valencia circuit. However, the series has already visited Spain 17 times; on sixteen of them it was hosted by the Jarama track, near Madrid, while in 2003 it raced at Barcelona's Catalunya circuit.

The FIA ETCC arrives in Valencia with an unexpected situation: a 20-year-old 'rookie' is leading the Drivers' Championship. With a brilliant win and a third place in Monza, Alfa Romeo's Brazilian youngster Augusto Farfus collected 16 points, two more than BMW's Jörg Müller, who won the second race.

The situation is still provisional, pending technical scrutineering on Farfus' car; the results are due to be communicated next week.

However, the interest for the second meeting of the season is going further than the usual Alfa Romeo-BMW fight. With five points scored in Monza, SEAT is ready to fight for even higher positions on its home racetrack. This will boost the hopes of the Spanish fans, who will also support their local heroes: Jordi Gené - one of SEAT's three men - and Antonio García, who drives for BMW Team Italy-Spain.

Two other reasons of interest will be: the application of the handicap weights based on the Monza results (40 kg for both, Farfus and J. Müller, 20 kg for Priaulx), and the first FIA ETCC appearance of Jan Magnussen in the Peugeot 307.

A few minor changes to the sporting regulations were ratified on March 24th, during the meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris; the full technical and sporting regulations can be found on www.fia.com and www.fiatouringcars.com.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR THE LOCAL HEROES

A Spanish driver has only once won the home round of the European Touring Car Championship. This dates back to the 1972 4 Hours of Jarama, when Alex Soler Roig shared the winning Ford Capri RS with Jochen Mass and Gérard Larrousse. But this year it could happen again, as both Antonio García and Jordi Gené have the potential to win in Valencia. "When we tested there in December, we were quite competitive," García remembers. "My lap times were as good as Tarquini's, and three tenths faster than those set by the other BMW drivers. I was very happy with our set-up, and this makes me confident that we will have a good car." As for Gené, he is equally confident: "Valencia is one of those tracks were we expect to be very competitive, and podium results should be possible. In Valencia you have to attack from the beginning to the end, and it will be worth taking a few risks; I'm ready to give 110 per cent, however it is important to keep concentration, because with this cars it's easy to overdrive and spoil everything."

FARFUS: MONZA WAS JUST A PRELUDE TO THE SEASON

With a win and a third place on his first appearance in the Championship, AutoDelta's Augusto Farfus is leading the Driver's Championship. "I consider the races in Monza as a prelude to the season. In my opinion the Italian circuit does not give a clear view of the opposing forces, and Valencia will mark the real start of the Championship." However, after his stunning debut in the Championship, does he think the other drivers are probably looking at him with different eyes ? "I don't think so. It's too early to think about strategies and who will be the men to beat. At this stage, we all have to think for ourselves, and do the best we can."

JORG MÜLLER: IT WILL BE TOUGH WITH THE 40-KG BALLAST

Runner up in both the 2002 and 2003 Drivers' Championships, Jörg Müller is already well placed to fight for the title again. After his win in Monza's Race 2, he is the best-placed BMW driver, second only to Farfus. However, due to the handicap weight system, he will carry the same 40-kg ballast as the young Brazilian. "And this is going to make a huge difference. This year more than in 2003, because the championship is even tougher, with so many competitive cars. This is why my goal for Valencia is to score more points, and possibly finish ahead of Farfus and Priaulx," the German driver said.

SEAT CARS TO FIGHT FOR PODIUM POSITIONS

The new season started in the right way for SEAT, scoring points in both the Monza races. Approaching to their home event, the Spanish team seems in a good position to achieve important results. "I expect a lot from Valencia, which is a circuit that suits our car much better than Monza," says Frank Diefenbacher. "The Toledo should be very quick in the infield part. During the test in February, I was able to keep the same pace as Alfa Romeo and BMW." Should Valencia see SEAT's first win in the FIA ETCC? "I'm not thinking of winning. However I believe that, if we are able to improve again, SEAT cars will be fighting for the podium positions."

PEUGEOT AND MAGNUSSEN FACE ETCC DEBUT

After deciding to skip the first meeting in Monza, Denmark-based Peugeot Sport Engineering and former F1-ace Jan Magnussen are finally facing their debut in the FIA ETCC. The Danish driver will join the series in Valencia, at the wheel of a Peugeot 307 3-door interim car. "We are very excited. The car was so good when we tested in Nogaro and Magny-Cours, that we changed our plans. Instead of doing just some races, we will take part in all the remaining nine events of the season. And this is the reason why we skipped Monza, as we had to rethink the programme," Magnussen stated.

RS-LINE TESTED THE FORD FOCUS IN LAUSITZ

In preparation to the Valencia meeting, the RS-Line Rotpunkt Sport team spent one day testing at the Lausitz Eurospeedway. The German team is taking their first season in the FIA European Touring Car Championship very seriously, entering two Ford Focus ST170 cars. They are working hard to improve, and to solve the technical problems met by Roland Asch and Sebastian Grunert in Monza. "We were happy with our lap times at Lausitz, which were five seconds faster than the pole position set last year by the Deutsche Tourenwagen Challenge," team manager Reiner Stiefel revealed.

HONDA: JAS ACCORD NEARLY READY FOR TESTING

In Valencia JAS Motorsport and Alessandro Balzan should use the Honda Civic Type-R for the last time. From the following meeting, in Magny-Cours on May 2nd, the new Honda Accord 2.0i is due to make its racing debut. "We are in a rush to finish building it," JAS technical director Stefano Fini confirmed. "So far we will stick with the plan, and we will certainly race the Accord in Magny-Cours. The question is when and where we will be able to test it beforehand. We have a couple of options: one in Adria and the other in Dijon-Prenois, on the way to Magny-Cours." The second Honda team, GR Asia, will continue racing two Civics, for Simon Harrison and Toni Ruokonen.

INDEPENDENTS TROPHY: D'ASTE CHASES CORONEL

Confirming himself as the favourite in the Independents Trophy, Carly Motors' Tom Coronel started the season with two wins in Monza. As the Oregon Team's three Alfa Romeo 156 Gta cars of Tavano, Rangoni and Bartyan encountered various problems, failing to be a serious threat, the Dutchman's closest competitor was newcomer Stefano D'Aste. At the wheel of a BMW 320i run by Proteam Motorsport (also a beginner in the FIA ETCC), the Italian driver was classified second of the Independents in both races. He was impressive in Race 2, which he finished ninth overall, nearly scoring on his first race. "I know Monza very well, and I always did well there. However, considering that we are new to the Championship, and that we had not much time for testing before the start of the season, we were quite pleased with these results," declared D'Aste.

-fia/etcc-

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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Jan Magnussen , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Jochen Mass , Simon Harrison , Alessandro Balzan , Jordi Gene , Toni Ruokonen , Gerard Larrousse , Roland Asch
Teams Proteam Motorsport