Magny-Cours: Round two preview

DIRK MÃœLLER DEFENDS HIS LEADERSHIP IN MAGNY-COURS The FIA World Touring Car Championship is heading to France for the second race meeting of the season that will take place in Magny-Cours on Sunday, May 1st. After the first two rounds in...

DIRK MÜLLER DEFENDS HIS LEADERSHIP IN MAGNY-COURS

The FIA World Touring Car Championship is heading to France for the second race meeting of the season that will take place in Magny-Cours on Sunday, May 1st.

After the first two rounds in Monza, where BMW and Alfa Romeo took one win apiece, Dirk Müller (BMW Team Deutschland) arrives in France as the championship leader, with 20 points and a margin of 8 ahead of his closest competitor James Thompson (Alfa Romeo Racing Team). Third in the classification is Antonio García (BMW Team Italy- Spain) only one further point adrift. In the Manufacturers' Championship BMW is leading Alfa Romeo by only one point.

A number of drivers are eager to make up for the premiere that, in some ways, disappointed them: 2004 FIA ETCC champion Andy Priaulx (twice in the points but never at the top), Gabriele Tarquini (eliminated in the second race after a collision with Dirk), Jörg Müller (whose hopes were jeopardized by a mistake in the first race). Traditionally the French track suits BMW more than Alfa Romeo -- four consecutive race wins for the German cars in the latest two seasons -- but the fight seems extremely even. Chevrolet and Ford are also looking forward to the new event for continuing to develop their cars and closing the gap from the top. And much is expected by SEAT Sport.

Magny-Cours is a track that really suits the Toledo Cupra, as was proved by the lap times set by Rickard Rydell, Jordi Gené and Peter Terting during the winter tests. As in Monza, 33 cars will take part in the event, with the two RS-Line IPZ Racing Ford Focus machines of Sascha Plöderl and Frank Diefenbacher stepping in place of the Honda Dealer Team Sweden cars of Tomas Engström and Jens Hellström.

NEW HANDICAP WEIGHTS COME INTO FORCE

The FIA WTCC revised handicap weight system comes into force for the first time in Magny-Cours. Two different criteria are combined to determine ballasts. A) Drivers who scored the highest number of points in the previous weekends are imposed the following handicap weights: 1st/40 kg, 2nd/30 kg, 3rd/20 kg, 4th/10 kg, 5th/0 kg, 6th/- 5 kg, 7th/- 10 kg, 8th/-15 kg, from 9th onwards/- 20 kg

B) Drivers who scored championship points are imposed a 5-kg handicap per each 10 points scored.

The two handicaps are cumulable up to a maximum of 60 kg.

THE ITALIAN CHAMPIONSHIP BACK IN ACTION

As in Monza, competitors from the Italian Superturismo Championship will join the FIA WTCC drivers again on the track, to compete in the third and fourth rounds of their own national series.

During the previous meeting, Alessandro Zanardi -- who competes in both the World and the Italian championships -- claimed two wins at the wheel of his BMW Team Italy-Spain car; his first victories since the accident that cost him his legs in 2001. Zanardi leads the classification with 20 points, trailed by Alessandro Balzan (SEAT Toledo Cupra) 13 and Salvatore Tavano (Alfa Romeo 156) 11. Nine drivers are eligible to score for the Italian Championship; besides the top three the others are Andrea Larini, De Micheli, D'Aste, Cirò, De Lorenzi and Valli.

FLASH NEWS

TESTING: On Tuesday, Andy Priaulx completed one day of testing at Zandvoort at the wheel of his BMW Team UK car run by RBM. At the same time BMW Team Italy-Spain and BMW Team Deutschland tested in Vallelunga on Tuesday. Zanardi and Dirk Müller were both clocked at 1:24.80, with García two tenths slower. Chevrolet tested in Brands Hatch with Huff and Menu, working on the engine, clutch and brakes development. Ford Hotfiel Sport will test at the Nürburgring on their way to Magny-Cours.

NEW CARS: Two drivers will be at the wheel of brand new cars in Magny-Cours: Chevrolet's Robert Huff and Ford Hotfiel Sport's Thomas Jäger. Both had their cars exstensively damaged in race incidents at Monza: Huff with De Lorenzi and Jäger with Menu.

THEY SAID: QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Mark Busfield, Chevrolet team manager: "After each race we compile a list of issues that need to be addressed before the next round. A normal list consists of some 25 to 30 items. After Monza, we compiled a list of some 160 issues. In other words: we are still a long way away from scoring our first podium finish, but at the same time we are quite confident that the list of engineering points will get shorter each time."

-fia-

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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Jorg Muller , James Thompson , Frank Diefenbacher , Peter Terting , Rickard Rydell , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Jens Hellstrom , Tomas Engstrom , Andrea Larini