Spa: Pre-race news

FORD WITH A NEW DRIVER AND GREATER EXPECTATIONS Team Ford Hotfiel Sport returns to action at Spa, after they decided to skip the Mexican event to concentrate on test and development work on the new Ford Focus RS WTCC. "The journey to Mexico ...


Team Ford Hotfiel Sport returns to action at Spa, after they decided to skip the Mexican event to concentrate on test and development work on the new Ford Focus RS WTCC.

"The journey to Mexico would have meant the cars being away for six weeks," said team principal Hans Hotfiel. "We decided it was better using this time for extensive tests."

The team tested in various locations. Thomas Klenke shared driving duties with the team's test driver Patrick Bernhardt and new driver Michael Funke, who will be replacing Thomas Jäger from Spa onwards.35 years old from Duisburg, Funke raced for Hotfiel Sport in 2003 and 2004, emerging as a race winner in the German Production Car Championship (DPWM). Last year, when the DPWM raced together with the FIA ETCC at Spa, Funke claimed two third places. "Ford has put great trust in me by handing me this drive. Now it's up to me to pay back and deliver," he said.

The team concentrated on suspension and differential settings as well as engine performance. "By using a harder anti-roll bar and softer springs in the front and by changing the rear axle's geometry we have improved a lot," said Klenke. "In the WTCC, you have to brake into the corners as deep as possible in order to shut the door on anybody who wants to overtake you. Fine-tuning the differential prevents the inside front wheel from locking up under turn-in braking."

After the tests, Eberhard Braun, the German head of motorsport at FordTeamRS, concluded: "The team made significant steps in the right direction; set-up, transmission and engine have all been improved. We expect that effort to be reflected in better results during the second half of the season."


Fresh from a start-to-finish race victory in Mexico, the SEAT Sport team is preparing for Spa in confident mood. In Belgium once again Jason Plato will team up with the three regular SEAT Sport drivers Rickard Rydell, Jordi Gené and Peter Terting. Last year's performances at Spa, including a 3rd place for Gené, suggest the SEAT Sport Toledo Cupra cars could challenge for the podium positions.

Recent strong performances by the team mean that both Rydell and Terting will be carrying 40-kg and 35-kg respectively. Gené and Plato will only be carrying 5kgs of ballast each.


Puebla saw Chevrolet achieve their best results of the season with both Rob Huff and Nicola Larini scoring points in the Drivers' Championship. Now with all of their cars back from Mexico, the team is preparing for Spa in the hope that the longest track on the FIA WTCC calendar will also bring success.

The team recently completed a two day test session at Pembrey with Nicola Larini behind the wheel of a Lacetti. The aim of the session was to further chassis development. Team Manager Mark Busfield commented, "We have found some new specs that should allow us to improve the chassis dynamics during the next races, and thus improve our performance in the twistier part of the track. We aim to qualify in the top twelve and finish in the top ten."


JAS Motorsport will enter only one of their Honda Accord cars in Spa. Adriano De Micheli will not join Roberto Colciago because the team could not manage to repair his car in time. De Micheli had extensively damaged his Honda when he crashed into the concrete wall during the first free practice session at Puebla-Amozoc.


Bart Mampaey is Team Manager of BMW Team UK - the team of 2004 FIA European Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx. Bart is also the only Belgian involved on the FIA WTCC, and therefore Spa is his home race.

What is Spa like as an event? "It is fast becoming a classic on the touring car calendar. and there are always large crowds. It's one of the most attractive circuits in the world and provides fantastic touring car racing. A special event indeed." What is the team expecting to achieve in Spa? "Our expectations are weighed against the results in 2003 when Andy took a race win. Of course it is would be fantastic to emulate that, but the car is carrying a lot of ballast and the weather is an issue as there is always the chance of rain. Let's wait and see."

What are the team's chances of winning the world title? "For the past two years, the championship has been extremely close on points. It was disappointing when Andy missed out on 10 points after a puncture at Silverstone and we just hope that those aren't the points that would have made the difference. All I know is we are going to be as competitive as possible right to the very last race in Macau."


END OF VOYAGE: The long trip back from Mexico is over. On Monday 18th July the cargo ship `Yucatan' docked in Antwerp as scheduled. The last part of the voyage was by truck, as the day after cars and parts were on their way to the teams' workshops.

DOWNTOWN SPA: Cars and drivers of the FIA WTCC will participate in a promotional event in Spa on Wednesday 27th July. The cars will be exhibited in front of the Casino, and the drivers will meet the public during an autograph session from 15.00 to 17.00.


Alain Menu, about Spa: "The last time I raced there was in 1988 in Formula 3, but although that was more than 15 years ago, I consider it one of my favourite race tracks in the world. Eau Rouge is a corner you can't compare to anything else anywhere."


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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Thomas Jäger , Jason Plato , Peter Terting , Rob Huff , Rickard Rydell , Jordi Gene , Eberhard Braun , Nicola Larini , Thomas Klenke , Roberto Colciago , Michael Funke , Patrick Bernhardt , Bart Mampaey , Alain Menu