Difficult weekend for BMW in Monza - Battle for WTCC title remains open. Following the 19th and 20th rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Monza it's now clear that the fight for the world title will be decided at the season...
Difficult weekend for BMW in Monza - Battle for WTCC title remains open.
Following the 19th and 20th rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in Monza it's now clear that the fight for the world title will be decided at the season finale in Macau, just as was the case last year. At the "Autodromo Nazionale di Monza", Augusto Farfus (BRA) of BMW Team Germany and BMW Team Italy-Spain's Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) collected points for the BMW national teams. Farfus thus reduced the gap to BMW Team UK's Andy Priaulx (GBR) in the drivers' classification, who had to leave Italy empty-handed. The defending champion still leads the Drivers' Championship, lying on equal points with the winner of race one, Yvan Muller (SEAT/FRA). SEAT's Jordi Gene walked away with the win in the second race.
The setting for the final two rounds of the series in Macau could hardly be any more exciting. Farfus is lurking in third place in the overall standings, ten points down on Priaulx and Muller. His fifth-placed team-mate Jorg Muller (GER) also kept a theoretical chance of winning the 2007 title. A total of six drivers are still in contention for the crown. In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW defended its lead, having 237 points to its tally. The gap to second-placed SEAT is ten points prior to the final races of the season.
In the first race at Monza's 5.770-kilometre track, Farfus was to the only BMW driver to score points. He performed a good start and managed to keep his sixth position. Although he was passed by Alain Menu (Chevrolet/SUI) on lap four, the 24-year-old secured a first-row grid position for the second race by finishing seventh. On the other hand, no less than three BMW drivers lost ground in the early stages, as they all were involved in a first-corner incident. Muller was hit in turn one, which caused a broken wheel carrier on the left rear of his BMW 320si WTCC. He was able to continue the race, but had to make do with 17th place after nine laps. Priaulx's disappointment was even bigger: He was turned round in the chicane and headed back into the pits with a damaged rear suspension. Shortly before the end of the race the 33-year-old went out again to complete a check of his repaired car, but was not classified.
It could have been worse for local hero Zanardi. Like his two fellow BMW drivers he lost several places due to a first-corner incident. But thanks to a fighting performance the 40-year-old succeeded in moving up the ranks over the course of the 9-lap race. He finally crossed the line in 13th position. His team-mate Felix Porteiro (ESP) held eighth position for quite a while. On lap six, however, a failed overtaking manoeuvre by SEAT's Oscar Nogues (ESP), in which both cars touched, cost him possible pole position for the second race. Porteiro dropped back and took chequered flag in 19th place. Fredrik Ekblom (SWE) was luckier during his third race for BMW Team UK this year. From 19th place on the grid he gained one position after another to finish 11th.
Priaulx celebrated a very special event when preparing for the start of race two: He was about to contest his 100th for BMW in a European or World Championship. However, he had hoped for a better result on this memorable day. As happened in the first round, the Guernsey-born driver became a victim of the first chicane. Due to another collision Priaulx was forced to pit in and retired. Porteiro suffered the same dose of bad luck. The 24-year-old retired shortly after the start following an incident, which caused a damaged left front wheel on his car.
Farfus also experienced an early end of his race. At the start he managed to defend second place. But in the following "Curva Grande", he was involved in a collision with Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT/ITA). His BMW 320si WTCC went off, ran across the track, only to crash into the wall on the other side. This accident had a negative impact on Ekblom's race as well. Running in tenth place, he had to lift in order to avoid hitting Farfus. As he lost momentum, several other cars passed him. A little later the Swedish Touring Car Champion was also hit by another driver - and finished the race with a damaged steering on 13th place.
Zanardi and Muller delivered strong catch up chases - however, with different outcomes. Muller had worked his way from 17th to eighth position, when Pierre-Yves Corthals (SEAT/BEL) launched an attack, sending Muller into a spin. The 38-year-old finished 15th. Zanardi delighted the Italian crowds with plenty of overtaking. Starting from 13th place he put in a flawless performance and celebrated a well-deserved sixth place.
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany): "I had a very good start into race one. Afterwards it was difficult, however, to put the cars in front of me under pressure. The grid position for race two was promising, as it should have given me the chance to close the gap to the front-runners in the championship. The accident with Tarquini stopped me on this mission. The good thing is that I still have a chance to win the title in Macau. Anything can happen there, as we all know."
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany): "As in Oschersleben and Brands Hatch I was sent off the track in race one shortly after the start. After this the car was very hard to control, which made me lose a lot of time. From the back of the grid it was difficult to make it to the top. But when I just got in reach of points again, the incident with Corthals happened. I think some drivers were pulling no punches on the track today."
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK): "The best thing regarding this weekend is that I had the honour of completing my 100th race with BMW. Apart from that it was a weekend to forget. In both races my hopes ended in the first chicane. This is the price you pay when you don't achieve a good qualifying result. Thanks to my great Brands Hatch weekend, I still have got a chance of winning the title in Macau. That's the most important thing at the moment."