WTCC season starts in France - Can someone catch Citroen?
The new season of the World Touring Cars Championship kicks off this weekend with the WTCC Race of France at Circuit Paul Ricard.
In regards to the previous season, there will be a couple of changes. The new qualifying format called “Manufacturers’ against the clock” is definitely the biggest change. It is based on the chase format used in team cycling and will offer additional points to the manufacturers, but only for those with at least three cars on the grid.
A couple of changes
This new session will go on straight after the regular qualifying which will be the same as in 2015, with three qualifying rounds and five cars in the last round battling for the pole position. Race points allocation will be the same like in the previous year.
Another important change is a new manufacturer involved in the competition. Volvo will feature two cars, just as the reigning champion Citroen who will have a tough task to defend its title after shortening their WTCC programme in what will be their last year in the series.
The ambitious Honda with refreshed drivers line-up is considered to be the main rival to the French manufacturer while Lada’s main ambition could be to make a surprise or two.
Honda Racing Team JAS
The Italian team with a support from Japanese manufacturers wants to be a serious title contender. They will enter the series with three cars, but only one driver that was kept from the previous season – Tiago Monteiro proved to be capable of fighting for top spots. Robert Huff is a former champion and one of the most experienced WTCC drivers while Norbert Michelisz is reigning Yokohama Trophy winner and definitely can be one of the dark horses in 2016.
Citroen Total WTCC
The championship winning team reduced the number of cars on the grid but ambitions are still high. Sebastien Loeb and Ma Qing Hua were released after the end of 2015 campaign, but the champions Jose Maria Lopez and Yvan Muller are still here, ready to continue their battle as they were the champion and runner-up in the last two years, driving a C-Elysee which looked far stronger than the rest of the cars.
Lada Sport Rosneft
The Russian team had everything that is needed, but the results were almost appalling. Their Vestas were pretty unreliable during the previous two years and the future does not look bright. Nick Catsburg stayed with the team for another year and he will be accompanied by Hugo Valente and an Italian veteran Gabriele Tarquini who is probably making his final appearance as an active racer.
Polestar Cyan Racing
The Swedish team will run two S60 Volvos and their abilities are still unknown despite they proved to be solid in other racing series. Fredrik Ekblom and Thed Bjork will be behind the wheel of the cars they know very well, ready to fight for points against more experienced and probably more versatile drivers in both Manufacturers and Independent entries.
Sebastien Loeb Racing
One of the best WRC drivers of all times is still involved in WTCC with his own team which will probably have Citroen factory backing from 2017. Until then, they will run C-Elysees as a customer team but with the ambition to be very competitive. In 2016, they will have three cars on the grid after Tom Chilton and Gregoire Demoustier joined Mehdi Bennani.
The Italian team is a long servant in the WTCC, but their success varied from year to year. In 2016, the team will enter only one car and again it will be a Chevrolet RML Cruze. After a long deliberation, team opted to retain services of the experienced Dutch driver Tom Coronel
The Spanish team is another team who will go into the new season with Chevrolet. In 2015, they changed many drivers and they will do the same this year. John Filippi will be the full-season driver while the place in the second car will be shared among younger drivers from countries that will host the races.
The second team from Sweden with Swedish drivers is NIKA Racing. They wil be running a Chevrolet after changing their mind at the very last minute and cancelling their partnership with Honda. After Rickard Rydell’s retirement, his compatriot John Bryant- Meisner will fill the seat. The youngster has experience in GP3 Series and other open wheels series, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the touring cars racing. The team will miss the season opener in France.
The team which is also known as All-Inkl.com Racing, owned by the German racing enthusiast Rene Munnich, is one of the teams with an ambition to enjoy the racing. Results never were on the top wishlist for this team, so we expect the same in 2016 from Munich and other drivers who will share a seat of Chevrolet.
Hungarian team lost its jewel called Norbert Michelisz, but the team owners Juni Gyuri and Zoltan Zengo prepared something new for the following campaign. Zengo Motorsport will enter the new season with two Hondas driven by young talents Ferenc Ficza and Daniel Nagy. Without any doubt, the first season will be hard for the rookies but it will be interesting to see what they are capable of.
WTCC 2016 race schedule
April 3: WTCC Race of France (Circuit Paul Ricard)
April 17: WTCC Race of Slovakia (Slovakiaring)
April 24: WTCC Race of Hungary (Hungaroring)
May 8: WTCC Race of Morocco (Marrakech)
May 28: WTCC Race of Germany (Nurburgring)
June 12: WTCC Race of Russia (Moscow Raceway)
June 26: WTCC Race of Portugal (Vila Real Circuit)
August 7: WTCC Race of Argentina (Termas de Rio Hondo)
September 4: WTCC Race of Japan (Twin Ring Motegi)
September 25: WTCC Race of China (Shanghai International Circuit)
November 6: WTCC Race of Thailand (Chang International Circuit)
November 25: WTCC Race of Qatar (Losail International Circuit)
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