Current WTCC Champion and points leader, YVAN MULLER/No.1 Chevrolet was the fastest driver of 21 in the Sunday morning Warm-Up for the afternoon World Touring Car Championship Series sprint races at Sonoma in the Northern California wine country. The lap time/speed on the 2.5-mile elevated road course wasn’t crucial for this session so record speeds weren’t expected.
The morning weather was at least twenty degrees cooler than Saturday, with a partial cloud cover, and no breeze at all.
Second and third fastest in Warm-Up were Muller’s teammates, ROBERT HUFF/No.2 Chevrolet; pole sitter ALAIN MENU/No.8 Chevrolet. This is a factory team – the only 2012 WTCC brand which has a factory-supported team. Chevrolet has been with the WTCC series since its beginnings in 2005. This is the last year for a Chevy factory team. Next year, Chevrolet will remain in the series, but with Customer Teams. It is not known yet if they will register for the 2013 FIA WTCC Manufacturer’s Championship.
In order to compete for the FIA WTCC Manufacturer’s Championship, the manufacturer must register and pay a manufacturer’s fee. There are five manufacturer’s involved with the 2012 series, but only three are registered/in contention for the Manufacturer’s Championship – Chevrolet, BMW Customer Racing Teams, and SEAT Customer Technology.
This year the Russian car Lada joined the series with a factory effort at three European/Eastern European races. Honda is joining the series at the next race in Suzuka, Japan. Both manufacturers will run the entire 2013 season, making six brands in the series.
Currently Chevrolet is leading the Manufacturers with 661 points, and possibly could win the Championship at this race, with three races remaining – Japan, China and Macao. Chevrolet has five drivers in two teams, the other team being bamboo-engineering.
BMW Customer Racing Teams is second in the Championship with 433 points. BMW has been with the series since 2005 and will continue with its Customer teams, providing technical support. There are six BMW teams, two with two drivers, and four with solo drivers.
SEAT Customer Technology is third in the Manufacturer’s Championship with 429 points. SEAT, which is part of the Volkswagen Group overseas, is a Spanish car not imported to the United States or Canada; but many are found in Mexico. SEAT has been with WTCC since its inception, and won the Manufacturer’s Championship twice – 2008 and 2009. SEAT was the first manufacturer to win a FIA Championship with a Diesel car. The current car is not a Diesel. There are three SEAT teams, with two drivers each. There is an additional team, which runs a homologated SUNRED Leon 1.6 GT engine, but is not part of the SEAT points efforts.
This year is the first year for a Ford team in the WTCC Series, and it is a Customer Team, not factory-supported. Team Aon does receive Ford technical support. It has two drivers, JAMES NASH and TOM CHILTON, both of Great Britain. The team has hopes of attracting Ford’s eye this weekend for more consideration next year. A couple of high-level Ford executives are at the race.
Let the games begin!