The 2016 WTCC season recap - Future doesn't look good
The 2016 FIA World Touring Cars Championship was far from exciting and the prospect is that following season could be even less interesting.
Citroen was superior, again
As it was expected, Citroen and Jose Maria Lopez dominated the championship for the third consecutive year. Even after the French manufacturer fielded only two cars backed by the factory, the difference between Citroen and the rest of the grid was huge. Lopez scored eight wins on the way to the trophy, while Yvan Muller added one triumph. The two drivers finished as a champion and a runner-up relatively easily resisting all attacks by Honda drivers.
Citroen also has a champion in the WTCC Trophy for the Independent entries. Mehdi Bennani, the driver of Sebastien Loeb racing, won the title and proved that he is capable of achieving big things despite having some oscillations which are difficult to explain.
Whether the Honda’s glass is half full or half empty?
The Japanese manufacturer was hugely ambitious before the start of the campaign. With three cars in the factory team, at one point of the campaign, Honda looked capable of going into the battle with Citroen but before the second half of the season it was clear that the difference is still too big.
Tiago Monteiro was considered as the title contender, but finished third in the Drivers’ championship after scoring two race wins, but Norbert Michelisz was the one who really impressed. The motivated Hungarian drove his first season as a factory team driver and finished only one point behind Monteiro. More was expected from the experienced Rob Huff who won only once and finished 6th in the points.
Lada finally won, solid debut for Volvo
Lada probably had its best season in the WTCC. The Vesta model proved that can be fast and reliability also was better than it 2015. The Russians finally scored a victory but they lacked consistency. The Old wolf Gabriele Tarquini scored two wins, Nick Catsburg once was on the top of the podium but was in the most consistent form of all Lada drivers, while Hugo Valente‘s performances were pretty disappointing, so it was enough only for the third place in the Manufacturers’ championship.
Finally, Volvo has to be happy with its first year in the series. The Swedish manufacturer and Cyan racing team fielded only two cars but Thed Bjork, who was in the seat through the whole season and scored the maiden win for the Volvo, as well Fredrik Ekblom, Robert Dahlgren, and Nestor Girolami who were sharing the seat in the second car, scored points on a regular basis and surely there will be more to come from the Swedes.
A new team time trial format introduced for manufacturers, titled Manufacturers Against the Clock (MAC3), has not increased the excitement on the qualifying day nor played important role in the Manufacturers’ championship. The WTCC obviously needs more changes on and off the track to be more interesting and attractive to the fans and manufacturers. As it currently stands, that won’t be an easy task at all.
There is plenty of reason for concern
The season of 2016 was the last for the legend of the series, the four-time champion Yvan Muller. Jose Maria Lopez also left the series when Citroen announced retirement from the WTCC and return to the World Rally Championship. Two top class drivers left the series and that is not a tragedy but the loss of the leading manufacturer is enormous kick in the teeth.
Lada also (surprisingly) decided to leave the WTCC at the time when finally started to get closer to rivals, so only Honda and Volvo, as it stands now, will have factory teams in 2017 what is really sad. Volvo will expand to three cars in the next year but that can’t patch departure of two manufacturers.
Another disappointing fact is that Citroen even with the private team, Sebastien Loeb Racing, can beat factory teams of Honda and Volvo in 2017 what probably can be exciting for the fans, but not for the competition. The promoters must do everything that they can to attract at least one new manufacturer with factory team to the series, as soon as possible but that looks unlikely to happen in 2017.
Fresh blood is desperately needed
The organizers also must ensure that independent teams will have the interest to stay in the championship. Sebastien Loeb racing will be there in 2017, as well Zengo Motorsport, but the future of others which are running Chevrolet cars remains in limbo. The ROAL Motorsport will stay in the WTCC as long as Tom Coronel can find financial backing. The Munnich Motorsport easily can set other priorities, as well the Campos Racing, so the fresh blood is desperately needed to make championship more competitive and more atractive.
That’s why the 2017 season could be decisive in many ways for the future of the World Touring Cars Championship and hopefully, some improvements in the organization will be done during relatively short winter break as it looks like that with the current state, there’s no prosperous future for the WTCC.
2016 FIA WTCC statistics
Number of wins: Citroen 12, Honda 4, Lada 3, Chevrolet 2, Volvo 1
Number of pole positions: Citroen 9, Honda 1, Lada 1
Number of fastest laps: Citroen 11, Lada 5, Honda 4, Volvo 2
Number of laps led: Citroen 138, Honda 91, Lada 51, Chevrolet 28, Volvo 1