Final overseas WTCC spurt: BMW national teams line up in Japan. Munich. The FIA World Touring Car Championship is entering the finishing straight: this weekend the BMW national teams travel to Japan, where the "Okayama International Circuit" is...
Final overseas WTCC spurt: BMW national teams line up in Japan.
Munich. The FIA World Touring Car Championship is entering the finishing straight: this weekend the BMW national teams travel to Japan, where the "Okayama International Circuit" is the venue for rounds 21 and 22 of the 2008 season. This sees the 3.703-kilometre track in the woods around the city of Mimasaka (JP) host an FIA world championship event for the first time since the two Formula One races in 1994 and 1995.
Four races before the end of the season, only in theory does BMW have any chance of defending its titles in the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships. BMW Team UK's Andy Priaulx (GB) is 34 points behind leader Yvan Muller (FR). In the manufacturers' standings, BMW has 223 points to its name - 54 points less than the leader SEAT. Unlike the fast tracks the series has raced on recently at Imola (IT) and Monza (IT), the twisting "Okayama International Circuit" should reduce the disadvantage the BMW drivers have over their rivals with turbo diesel engines.
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
"I have never even been to Japan, let alone raced there. I know very little about the track other than a video I have seen on the internet. As regards the title race, I shall never give up until the points' total says it is impossible for me to win, but I have to be realistic about my chances this year."
Jorg Muller (BMW Team Germany):
"Okayama is virgin territory for me, which is why it is so important to build up in advance an accurate impression of the circuit. Here the internet plays an important role, with onboard footage of virtually every circuit being available. I find that is a huge help. I know Suzuka and Fuji; now I am looking forward to Okayama."
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
"I'm really excited about going to Japan. We shall experience a completely different culture - and I love new experiences. On paper the Okayama circuit looks as if it could suit us well. However, we shall have to wait for the first session to know whether in reality this will be the case or not."
Felix Porteiro (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"I was very happy with my performance in this year's overseas races in Brazil, where I scored nine points. Therefore I hope to have similar results in Japan and China. I'm especially confident for Okayama. Our BMW 320si WTCC should be able to prove its strengths there."
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
"Logistically speaking, a trip to Japan is always a nightmare for various reasons. On the other hand, this problem is compensated for by the enthusiasm of all the Japanese race fans. I've never been to Aida, however, I know how professional and meticulous the Japanese promoters are, and that's why I'm looking forward to a well organised event."
History and Background:
The World Touring Car Championship is making its debut in Okayama. However, a Japanese race was included in the very first race calendar for the World Championship in 1987. That year the Fuji International Speedway provided the venue for the thrilling season finale. Starting from ninth on the grid, Roberto Ravaglia (IT), who today heads BMW Team Italy-Spain, moved through the field in his BMW M3 to finish third and secure a place on the podium - in the process claiming the very first World Touring Car Championship.
The name Okayama International Circuit refers to the Japanese prefecture of the same name. The city of Okayama is located about 60 kilometres further south. The circuit actually belongs to Mimasaka, which was formed by the merging of several townships in 2005. Mimasaka lies on the main Japanese island of Honshu, on the banks of the Yoshii river.
The race track was built in 1992 and was originally called the Tanaka International Circuit Aida". Former British racing drivers soon organised the first races there. Drivers like David Hobbs (GB) and Richard Attwood (GB) gave their names to some of the circuit's eleven turns. In the first sector, the drivers from the BMW national teams will also be faced by the Moss S , which is named after the 16-times Grand Prix winner Stirling Moss (GB).
In 2003 the ownership of the circuit changed hands, and it was renamed the "Okayama International Circuit" on 1st May 2004. Alongside the World Touring Car Championship, the 3.703-kilometre circuit has also played host to the Japanese Formula Nippon, as well as various national GT and touring car championships.
The WTCC race weekend is the first time an official FIA world championship has been hosted in Mimasaka for 13 years. In 1994 and 1995 the circuit was the venue for two Formula One races. The events were staged under the official title Pacific Grand Prix", as the Japanese Grand Prix was already being staged in Suzuka (JP). A certain Michael Schumacher (DE) was victorious in both 1994 and 1995.
After the races in Curitiba (BR) and Puebla (MX) at the start of the season, the World Touring Car Championship now heads back overseas for the final four races. Three weeks after the races in Okayama, the season finale takes place at the Guia Circuit in Macao (MO). The BMW national teams' equipment is shipped directly to the former Portuguese colony.
The first race starts at 14:35hrs local time on Sunday. Race two gets underway at 16:05hrs. Bearing in mind the fact that the clocks go back to winter time on 26th October, the time difference to central Europe will be minus eight hours. Eurosport International is broadcasting both races on television, and they can also be followed on the official BMW Motorsport website at www.bmw-motorsport.com. The drivers from the BMW national teams will be available for interviews with media representatives from 17:30hrs local time on Saturday.
Facts and Figures:
Circuit / Date Okayama International Circuit / 26th October 2008
Lap / Distance 3.703 km / 51.84 km (14 laps)