BMW celebrates two triple-victories at WTCC kick-off in Curitiba. Curitiba (Brazil), 11th March 2007. The 2007 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) started exactly in the same way as last year's season ended: JÃ¶rg MÃ¼ller (GER) of BMW Team...
BMW celebrates two triple-victories at WTCC kick-off in Curitiba.
Curitiba (Brazil), 11th March 2007. The 2007 FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) started exactly in the same way as last year's season ended: Jörg Müller (GER) of BMW Team Germany claimed victory in the first race of the year. In front of 33,000 spectators at the "Autódromo Internacional de Curitiba" he made perfect use of his pole position, thus repeating his triumph in the 2006 season finale in Macau (CHN). Reigning World Champion, Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK, GBR) and Müller's team-mate Augusto Farfus (BRA) in second and third place respectively, made for a perfect start to the season for the BMW national teams.
In the second race at the 3.695-kilometre track, it was another BMW driver who stepped into the spotlight: Farfus made the Brazilian crowd cheer by taking the win. Priaulx finished second once again, with Müller finishing third. For the first time in the WTCC history, BMW took all six available podium places. With 16 points each under their belts, Müller, Farfus and Priaulx share the lead in the Drivers' Championship after the first two rounds. In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW has 36 points to its tally, leading second-placed SEAT by 15 points.
The first race started with something new: For the first time in WTCC history, it was kicked-off by a "rolling" start. While a first-corner incident happened further back in the field and eliminated four drivers from the race, the BMW drivers coped well with the new challenge. Having started from second place, Farfus took the lead from Müller. However, even before entering turn 1, the 37-year-old successfully launched a counter attack and passed the local hero. Zanardi made an impressive start, too. He improved from tenth to seventh place. On the other hand, his team-mate Félix Porteiro (ESP) lost four positions and headed out of the first corner in eighth place.
In order to salvage all the cars that were involved in the collision at the start, the Safety Car took control of the race until the end of lap 5. Following the re-start, the leading BMW trio took part in an exciting fight for the win. At first, Müller succeeded in building up a gap on Priaulx. Over the course of the race, however, Priaulx turned the tables. The double World Champion closed in on him lap by lap, while Farfus lost contact to his brand-mates. Nevertheless, the running order remained unchanged until the chequered flag, and Müller celebrated his eight WTCC victory. Rookie Porteiro was stuck in the gravel following a braking mistake and retired on lap 12. Zanardi defended seventh place until the very end, thus securing a front-row grid position for race two.
However, the 40-year-old was unlucky at the standing start. When entering the first corner, Zanardi was pushed by Chevrolet's Robert Huff (GBR), losing valuable positions. He dropped back into fifth place, rejoining just ahead of Priaulx and Müller, who had both gained one place. Farfus had an even better start: From sixth place, the 23-year-old moved up into second position. On lap 3 he launched an attack on leading driver, Yvan Muller (SEAT, FRA), and captured the lead.
Behind Farfus, the Priaulx/Müller pairing impressively chased through the field. First, both drivers passed Zanardi on lap 2, then followed Tom Coronel (SEAT, NLD), Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT, ITA) and Muller. In the final stage of the race the two BMW drivers had another exciting duel. Priaulx kept the upper hand this time and crossed the line in second place. Müller took third place. At the front, Farfus clocked one quick lap after the next. After 14 laps, he took the chequered flag with a gap of 4.378 seconds over Priaulx. Despite his bad luck at the start, Zanardi's fighting spirit was rewarded with sixth place and three points. His team-mate Porteiro, however, left Curitiba empty-handed. After the formation lap he had to return to the pits due to a gearbox problem, which was a result of his off-track moment in race one. Porteiro couldn't take part in the race.
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
"My goal was to score points during my first race appearance with BMW. I achieved just that in race one with the podium finish. But now I'm standing here as the winner of the second race. That is unbelievable. We did a lot of testing over the winter. But what you can't simulate is a proper race situation. Therefore, it was important for me to get to know the car in race conditions. I keep on learning more about the car. The enthusiastic support of the Brazilian fans really gave me a push. You don't see a La Ola wave before the start of a WTCC race too often. This was a great start for us."
Jörg Müller (BMW Team Germany):
"Last year I struggled a bit at the beginning of the season and lost many points in the fight for the title. This time I managed to do better. Over the course of the opening laps in race one I was able to build up a gap on Andy. Towards the end, however, he came closer and closer and put me under pressure. That's why I was really happy when I crossed the line as winner. This is a fantastic result for BMW Team Germany. In the second race I was in the middle of another great and fair fight with Andy. For him, Augusto and me the season will start again in Zandvoort, as we are all on 16 points."
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
"At the beginning of race one my car was not as fast as Jörg's. But then I was able to gain ground, and we had an interesting fight. In the second race it was just the same. I'm satisfied with this result, as we suffered some problems over the course of the weekend. I really got the most out of my car during the races. Competition in the 2007 season will be extremely fierce. I'm ready to take the challenge."