The World Touring Car Championship will debut its new Manufacturers' Against the Clock (MAC3) concept this weekend during the first race of the 2016 season at Paul Ricard.
It is a concept based on team pursuit cycling and offering additional points for the manufacturers’ championship.
The session follows straight after qualifying, which is otherwise unchanged for this year, featuring the same three-part elimination system as it has for the past two years, with a five-car one-lap shootout for Q3.
After that, those that are entered for the manufacturers’ championship are invited to take part in MAC3, which will also be broadcast live by the championship’s promoter Eurosport Events.
Speaking at the WTCC's pre-season launch, WTCC promoter Francois Ribeiro thanked the FIA for greenlighting the concept.
“I want to say thank you to the FIA and to the manufacturers to agree and to let us bring risk forward,” said Ribeiro.
“When you see the drama you have when you want to see the WRC starting order, how many discussions of badmouthing in the press of when you change the F1 qualifying format.
“I introduced the Manufacturers Against the Clock idea progressively to the teams last May and to the FIA.
"It’s a bit like the Nurburgring. When we proposed Nurburgring, everybody said that’s impossible, then everybody said it will not work.
"But finally we found a solution to everything because there was a good intention and a good relationship."
Elaborating on MAC3, Ribeiro admitted that the audience may be divided about the Tour de France-style concept.
"I expect 50 percent to like it and other 50 percent to dislike it, who would say probably that it is completely stupid, that it is the stupidest thing I have seen in motorsport," Ribeiro told Motorsport.com.
"It’s very new, it’s different and I think we have to be different, we have to recruit a new audience. Whether we speak good or bad about the WTCC I prefer we speak about it.”
How it works
As the format requires three cars, only manufacturers who have at least three cars on the grid can take part, which means the new Volvo will be left out.
With Volvo’s ineligibility, the format is open to just Lada, Honda and Citroen for 2016. The manufacturers’ standings reversed set the order in which they compete, taken from the current standings, except in the case of Round 1, where the 2015 standings will be used.
The manufacturers have to nominate their three drivers before the end of scrutineering. With only three Ladas on the grid, the exercise is academic for the Russian marque, while Honda aren’t expected to vary from their all-star factory squad of Tiago Monteiro, Norbert Michelisz and Rob Huff.
The interest will come from two-time manufacturers’ champions Citroen, who only have two factory entries this year in Yvan Muller and Jose Maria Lopez.
As a result, they will have to enter one of the three privateer cars of Mehdi Bennani, Gregoire Demoustier or Tom Chilton at each event.
The fastest manufacturer will score 10 points towards the manufacturers’ championship, the second will pick up eight points, the third, six.
This means Volvo are given an automatic 72-point handicap to the worst scoring manufacturer, although it’s also vital that those three cars make it through qualifying in order to take part in MAC3.
MAC3 regulations explained
- MAC3 will take place after qualifying, with each manufacturer which is registered for the manufacturers’ championship and that has at least three cars entered.
- The list of nominated drivers must be communicated to the stewards before the end of scrutineering (Friday).
- After Q3 is complete, the race director will announce the start of refuelling time for MAC3. Only changing tyres is permitted, no other changes.
- Each manufacturer will take part in reverse championship order, using the 2015 standings for Round 1.
- The cars have 45 seconds after the green light (which is turned on four minutes after the refuelling/tyre change window is open) to leave the pits. They have one out-lap and must line-up on the grid side-by-side at the start-finish line.
- A 15-second signal will be displayed, and when the red lights are extinguished, the MAC3 race starts, with two timed laps.
- 30 seconds after the last car crosses the line for the second time, the pits are opened to the second manufacturers’ cars to leave the pit lane.
- The fastest manufacturer at the end of the event is awarded 10 points, the second 8, the third 6. Any manufacturer not taking part will score 0.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes