The WTCC races at Vila Real and Marrakech are set to feature joker laps in 2017, in a bid to spice up the battle at the street circuit events on the calendar.
The WTCC plans to introduce the concept, subject to final approval by the FIA, for two of the three street races on the calendar, which despite strong crowds for home favourites Mehdi Bennani and Tiago Monteiro, featured little overtaking due to the constricted nature of the tracks.
“The ‘joker’ lap works so well in rallycross, so why would it not open up strategies in WTCC street races?” said WTCC promoter Francois Ribeiro.
“It will bring an extra dimension to Marrakech and Vila Real where we think the local promoter will have enough space to implement an alternative route without compromising safety.”
The joker lap, on which the drivers take a 'shortcut', cannot be taken until at least the third lap of the race, and its inclusion is subject to a full safety inspection ahead of the race weekend.
The FIA’s statement on the introduction confirmed further investigation would take place before its implementation.
“The World Motor Sport Council approved further investigation into the possibility of implementing a Joker Lap on its temporary circuits,” read the release. “This process currently sits with the FIA’s Safety and Circuit Commissions.”
The one street circuit on the calendar where a joker lap is not being considered is the Circuito da Guia, on the streets of Macau.
The WTCC won't be the first touring car championship to implement the popular strategy play in its races.
The Argentinian Super TC 2000 Championship implemented the joker lap at San Martin in 2015, which was again used at Mendoza this year.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes