World Touring Car Championship's General Manager Marcello Lotti comments the past season and looks at the future evolutions of the series.
“We must consider 2012 as a positive year, although it was still under the influence of the global financial crisis. Compared to other motorsport series, WTCC benefited from a few positive happenings: the success of the first event in the USA that was boosted by the local promoter’s enthusiasm, the participation of the Ford brand in the whole season and the arrival of Honda in the last races, the interest to join shown by new manufacturers like Citroën, and the FIA’s active role in planning a technical evolution of the series.
It would be useless spending words to praise his skills, because when a driver wins a world championship it means he’s a good one. As a promoter, I am delighted to see someone who began racing in a national single make trophy, growing up to the point to become world champion. It is something gratifying for the category.”
2013: The Russian front and new teams
“The next season will be an interesting one. The main feature is the opening of a Russian front. Russia has a strategic importance, being one of the leading automotive markets; therefore it was on top of our commercial priority list.
Now they have a racetrack that is good enough to welcome WTCC, and on top of this Russia’s most important car maker, the Avtovaz Group, rejoins the championship with the LADA Sport Team supported by Lukoil.
Something that is definitely going to shake the inner market. Looking at the field, I’m quite optimistic. The teams that competed in 2012 will stay, and one or two new ones are expected to join.
We will have a fair share of brands represented, including Chevrolet. As a matter of fact the possibility for Chevrolet to be represented in the championship is realistic, and this pleases us because it is an important brand and will help to keep the level of the championship high in terms of both, participation and competitiveness.”
2014: A technical evolution was needed
“After eleven years under the same set of rules a face-lifting was needed, and we were pleased that the FIA President Jean Todt was sharing this view and has been the first one to embrace the cause.
The original idea was to change in 2015, but then we decided to advance the application to 2014, on the wave of the interest shown by new manufacturers and also because the brands currently represented are about to launch new model cars that may be homologated in 2014.
We are not talking of a new generation of cars, but of a technical evolution of the Super 2000 that were launched back in 2002. The basic points are an increase of power and noise, a reduction of weight, bigger wheels and a more aggressive look.
Then, in order to avoid a stream of requests for technical waivers, more freedom will be granted in the suspension homologation. Further implementations will be studied for a later application, such as the ‘push to pass’ and a common hybrid system.
The FIA and the manufacturers are working on the final draft of the that will be finalized by the end of January and submitted to the World Motor Sport Council in March.
It will be a natural evolution in the respect of the spirit of touring cars racing that must remain based on the identification of the racing car with the production car it comes from.
Someone will be happy, considering this as a simple updating of the championship, someone will disagree, claiming that an increase of costs will follow.
However, I believe that Super 2000 proved that the FIA is capable to maintain the stability of technical regulations for a long period. And their efforts, joined with ours, made also possible to keep the costs stable.
This evolution will continue to keep the running costs under control, however in the beginning investments on the new cars will be requested.
And I can grant that, like it happens every time a motor sport series is undergoing a technical evolution, we will study a way to assure a balanced cohabitation between the current and the new cars.”
Half a billion viewers watched WTCC
WTCC’s TV audience is growing fast. Since the inception of the World Championship in 2005, figures grew from 70 million viewers across 20 broadcasters to over half a billion viewers across 84 broadcasters in 2012.
The full 2012 broadcast figures will be announced by IFM, the Germany-based sports research firm, in its yearly report to be published by the mid of January.
“Among the 84 broadcasters, 49 were free-to-air channels, 31 were cable and satellite channels and four were news agencies.
There was a total of about 1,400 hours of WTCC programming in 2012, compared to 1,237 hours in 2011, while the cumulative audience increased by nearly 10 per cent,” explained François Ribeiro, motor sport development director at Eurosport Events.
Speaking about the near future, Ribeiro said: “In 2013, our priority targets are Russia and USA. We are currently in negotiations with premier networks in both countries. On top of this we want to push for improving our coverage in Japan.”
WTCC’s TV strategies are directly connected to the importance of the automotive markets: “We really try to make sure that WTCC is aired, whether it is covered by Eurosport or not, in the main automotive markets.
And then of course we try to place our programmes in the emerging markets, which are key to the car manufacturers.”