BMW begins mission to defend title in Monza. Munich, 27th March 2006. The new season of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) gets underway this weekend. The first stage of touring car racing's biggest prize takes place at the "Autodromo...
BMW begins mission to defend title in Monza.
Munich, 27th March 2006. The new season of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) gets underway this weekend. The first stage of touring car racing's biggest prize takes place at the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza". For the first time in 2006, the BMW national team drivers will race against the competition in two sprint races.
The drivers already gave fans a taste of what is to come in the 20 races in Europe, Asia, South and Central America on 21st and 22nd March. During the Media Days" in Monza, the teams ran a two-day testing programme. Reigning champion Andy Priaulx (GBR) of BMW Team UK topped the timesheets after setting a time of 2:00.688 minutes. However, the BMW Team Germany drivers Dirk Muller (GER) and Jorg Muller (GER), as well as Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) and Marcel Costa (ESP) of BMW Team Italy-Spain, also made a good impression on the track with the highest full throttle percentage of the race calendar.
The quintet will be using the new BMW 320si this season. The race car was developed by BMW based on the road car edition of the same name. The requisite power is provided by the 275bhp 4-cylinder in-line engine. After the wins in 2005 at the Drivers' Championship, the Manufacturers' Championship and the Independents Trophy, BMW is once again aiming to dominate the front end of the grid in this FIA WTCC season.
Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director):
"I am convinced the BMW 320si will carry on the BMW success story in touring car racing. This year's WTCC should prove even more exciting than in 2005. There are new manufacturers involved, the field of participants will expand further and there are some new venues in the calendar. Overall, the World Touring Car Championship offers everything a race series needs. With our three national teams and the new BMW 320si, we are in a good position to be up there with the front-runners again."
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
"I can't wait for the season to finally begin. Last year's successes are a thing of the past; now I'm concentrating on achieving a good start to the season in Monza. The reversed starting grid and the handicap weight should prevent any driver from winning the title easily. I predict the championship will be decided in the last race of the season once more."
Dirk Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"It was great to be able to compete against the rest of the pack again during the tests in Monza. However, I don't believe they all showed their full potential. That's why I am intrigued to find out which driver is how strong this weekend. Last year I experienced a good start to the season in Monza, and it would be great if I could repeat that this time around."
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"Finally the new season starts. Although I have been in motorsport for quite a few years now, the build-up to the first race of the season is always something special. I had a lot of bad luck in the last couple of seasons. That's why, in 2006, I want to prove that I am still a driver to be taken seriously. I hope I will be able to prove that in Monza already."
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"The season starts with my home race in Monza. I like the track, and I'm looking forward to competing in front of a home crowd. I fell in love with the new BMW 320si immediately, and I hope it can help us achieve a good result at the beginning of the season. I collected a lot of points towards the end of the 2005 season, so I hope I'll be able to continue that way."
Marcel Costa (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"The test days in Monza were very important for me. I had never been on the track before but I immediately took to it during the tests. The BMW 320si is a fantastic car, and I can't wait to compete in my first WTCC race on Sunday. Additionally, I am very proud to be in a team with Alessandro. I think I will be able to learn a lot from him."
History and background:
Monza already hosted last year's WTCC season opener. Three rounds of the European Touring Car Championship had already been held at the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza" before 2004.
In 2005, Dirk Muller was the most successful driver at the high-speed track. The 30- year-old won the first race. In the second race of the season he managed to finish in 2nd place.
Monza is located 15 kilometres northeast of Milan and is a part of the Lombardy Region. 122,000 people live here.
The race track was opened in 1922 and has been redesigned many times in its history. The remains of a steep corner pay testament to the major changes the track has experienced over the years. Since the 1,000-kilometre race was held in 1967, the oval, which belonged to the original layout of the track, has not been used.
The WTCC is not the only FIA-sanctioned World Championship that holds a race on the classic circuit. On 10th September, the BMW Sauber F1 Team will compete in the 13th race of the Formula One season.
Both WTCC races cover nine laps. This makes for an overall distance of 51.93 kilometres per race. The first race begins on Sunday at 15:05hrs. The race will be broadcast live on EUROSPORT.