Imola: Round four preview

FIA WTCC DRIVERS MEET FANS IN BOLOGNA Once again the FIA WTCC will meet the fans before a race. Following the successful event held in London's Leicester Square to promote the 5th and 6th rounds in Silverstone, KSO has organised another special...


Once again the FIA WTCC will meet the fans before a race. Following the successful event held in London's Leicester Square to promote the 5th and 6th rounds in Silverstone, KSO has organised another special event before the 7th and 8th rounds in Imola.

On Thursday 26th May, five racing cars Alfa Romeo, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford and SEAT will be exhibited in Piazza Maggiore, the heart of Bologna's historical centre, from 3.30 to 6.00 PM.

A group of drivers, including home boy Alessandro Zanardi and other leading Italian drivers like Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini, will meet the fans in an autograph session from 4.00 to 5.00 PM.


The new FIA WTCC handicap weight system is becoming more and more effective. After the first three race meetings of the season, eleven cars already have ballast.

Gabriele Tarquini, who won the first race in Silverstone and climbed back to second in the championship classification, will carry the heaviest handicap: 55 kg. His rivals in the title fight, the Mullers and Andy Priaulx, will not be much lighter. As well as SEAT's leading man Rickard Rydell, who claimed victory in Race 2 at Silverstone.


The FIA WTCC welcomes Mexican youngster Carlos Mastretta Aguilera. The 21-year old will join Tom Coronel at the GR Asia team in Imola and Puebla, taking the wheel of the SEAT Toledo Cupra that was driven by Valle Makela in the first three meetings.

"Carlos Mastretta's participation has been organised in close cooperation with Jose and Julian Abed, promoters of the Mexican event. To have a local driver will greatly help us to promote the meeting at Puebla," explained Marcello Lotti, promoter of the FIA WTCC.

Considered one of the best prospects of Mexican motorsport, Carlos Mastretta claimed the 2001 Mexican Formula A karting title before moving to car racing. He was elected rookie of the year in the 2002 Copa Corona for Formula Renault. After racing in the British Formula Renault last year, he came back to the Mexican Copa Corona and finished third in the opening round of the current season at El Aguila.


The fight for the FIA WTCC titles is closer than ever after Silverstone. The top four in the Drivers' Championship are covered by only 5 points, and 13 separate the current leader, Dirk Muller, from 8th placed Antonio Garcia. In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW leads by 6 points ahead of Alfa Romeo, while SEAT is only 19 points behind.

At Silverstone Dirk Muller managed to claim 3 points in the second race, which enabled him to maintain the championship lead with a 2-point margin ahead of Tarquini.

However the German driver will be under special surveillance for the rest of the season. Because he rejoined Saturday's qualifying session despite having received external aid, and considering he had already been given a suspended penalty due to a racing incident in Monza, the Stewards decided to impose a 5-point deduction from his championship points. This penalty will only be applied if he incurs any other sanctions before the end of the season.

Tarquini also has a pending penalty because of his collision with Terting in Race 2 at Silverstone. As well as definitely losing ten positions on the grid of the first race in Imola, if he is involved in a similar incident during one of the two following events, he will also be excluded from that race. Alfa Romeo Racing Team has time until Sunday to confirm their appeal against this decision.


BIKERS ON ALFA: Three bike champions will face each other in a sprint race on Sunday. Marco Melandri (2002 world champion for the 250 class), Alex De Angelis and Fausto Gresini (twice vice-champion for the 125 class) will compete in a 2-lap race at the wheel of identical Alfa Romeo 147 Cup cars, just before the FIA WTCC first race.

ITALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP: Like in Monza and Magny-Cours, competitors of the Italian Superturismo Championship will join the FIA WTCC. This will raise the field to a total of 32 cars. After the first two meetings of the season, Alessandro Zanardi leads the championship with 33 points, chased by Salvatore Tavano and Giuseppe Cirò, who are 8 and 15 points behind respectively.


Andy Priaulx, after a puncture stopped him while leading Race 2 at Silverstone: "I suppose my only consolation was that my main challengers for the championship Jorg and Dirk Muller had also had a relatively bad weekend so the battle is still close."


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Series WTCC
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Tom Coronel , Marco Melandri , Valle Makela , Rickard Rydell , Gabriele Tarquini , Salvatore Tavano , Nicola Larini , Giuseppe Ciro , Carlos Mastretta , Marcello Lotti