Interview with BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. Munich, 08th November 2006. The countdown for the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) season finale is on. Prior to rounds 19 and 20 at Macau's (CHN) "Guia Circuit", nine drivers are...
Interview with BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen.
Munich, 08th November 2006. The countdown for the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) season finale is on. Prior to rounds 19 and 20 at Macau's (CHN) "Guia Circuit", nine drivers are still in the fight for the drivers' title. Three contenders are racing a BMW 320si WTCC: Reigning champion Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK as well as both BMW Team Germany drivers, Jorg Muller (GER) and Dirk Muller (GER). In addition, BMW holds the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship and is set to defend the title in the former Portuguese colony. In this interview, BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen, talks about the showdown in the Far East and reviews the exciting season.
Mr Theissen, as it was the case in 2005, the WTCC title fight will be decided in Macau. Is this a worthy venue for the finale?
Mario Theissen: "Yes for sure. I was on site last year, when Andy Priaulx clinched the drivers' title and we won the Manufacturers' Championship. It was a unique atmosphere, and I was deeply impressed. The circuit poses an inimitable challenge for the drivers in the final event of the season. The Guia Circuit is evocative of the narrow streets of Monaco. Street circuits of that kind deserve their reputation of being extremely demanding."
Does it come as a surprise to you that any one of nine drivers can still be champion?
Theissen: "I assess this situation with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it's great that we still have three strings to our bow. Combined with the fact that we are leading the manufacturers' classification, this proves the competitiveness of the BMW 320si in its very first season. From the manufacturer's angle, however, we have to keep a critical view of the close field of competitors which has been brought about by individual handicaps and compromises."
For the fans there just cannot be enough excitement--
Theissen: "That's true. I'm also happy we didn't have an early title decider. We have seen 11 different race winners this season, representing four manufacturers. As far as excitement among the drivers is concerned, it couldn't get any better. However, the WTCC is not only about the drivers, but we fought for the manufacturers' title as well. Such a title only makes sense, if the best car is in the front at the end of the year. The title loses its significance and an ambitious manufacturer loses its interest, if the cars' performance is levelled via the regulations."
How do you rate the performance of the three BMW title aspirants?
Theissen: "Over the course of the season, Andy Priaulx not only scored points on a regular basis, but also turned out to be a multiple race winner. To date he made it onto the top step of the podium four times, thus winning three more races than last year - when he won the title. Jorg Muller leaped into third position in the drivers' classification thanks to an impressive performance in the second half of the season. Overall, he won three races. Jorg knows Macau very well. His experience will be an advantage for him. Dirk Muller is the underdog this year. In 2005, he travelled to Macau as championship leader and was beaten by Andy. Furthermore, the handicap weight will play an important role in the final two rounds."
What do you expect from the other three drivers in the BMW national teams?
Theissen: "Alessandro Zanardi again made some special moments in this year's World Touring Car Championship and celebrated another win in Istanbul after claiming his first WTCC victory in Oschersleben 2005. This is an outstanding achievement. I'm confident that he will also be a factor in Macau. The same goes for his BMW Team Italy-Spain team-mate, Duncan Huisman. No other driver has scored more wins at this track than the Dutchman. Jan Magnussen will also support us in our quest for the manufacturers' title. He is an experienced driver who already knows the BMW 320si from the Danish Touring Car Championship."
What is so fascinating about the World Touring Car Championship?
Theissen: "In Formula One and in most of the other racing categories, it's essential to avoid all contact with an opponent on the track. This is different in the WTCC. Often the contact is even welcomed, when drivers lean on their rivals to gain fractions of a second in corners. This is truly unique. The races are very exciting and offer a lot of action. So far, every World Touring Car Champion has won the title in a BMW. I hope that this will still be the case after the season finale in Macau."
What does Alessandro Zanardi's test with the BMW Sauber F1 Team mean to you?
Theissen: I'm delighted that we can give Alessandro the opportunity to make his return at the wheel of an F1 car. A couple of months ago he asked me about this topic rather as a joke. Now, this joke will become reality. Our engineers were able to modify the BMW Sauber F1.06 for his specific needs. I'm really excited about the test."