Gabriele Tarquini
Gabriele Tarquini

FIA World Touring Car Championship driver, GABRIELE TARQUINI, proved the adage that old age and treachery can beat out youth and good looks, with his decisive victory in WTCC Race Two at Sonoma Raceway. His No.3 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC had a 2.434 second Margin of Victory ahead of MEHDI BENNANI No.25 Proteam Racing BMW 320. The 51-year old got past Bennani immediately after the start, in Turn Two, and never looked back.

Tarquini said “It was a very hot race, so I worried about front tires. I am extremely happy for the weekend. The key to my victory was the start. It’s quite unbelievable and a masterpiece because to beat a rear-wheel drive car under acceleration is very, very nice. It was very tough, quite unbelievable. Here you have to really drive, with the elevation. It’s very nice, the characteristic of the track. I can play with it”

Mehdi Bennani
Mehdi Bennani

Pole sitter Bennani joked about his ‘big arms’ after running the 13-lap race with power-steering problems, which made the car hard to handle. “I was really glad for the last lap.” With good reason. Points leader YVAN MULLER No.12 RML Chevrolet Cruze was pushing hard near the end. Bennani watched his mirrors for Muller. Fortunately winning free practice and warm-up, I learned things. Sonoma is not a circuit when you can overtake easily. Yvan, multiple world champion, you know he knows the place. A lot of things were going through my mind.

Finishing third and turning the fastest race lap of 1:47.869/83.61mph/134.56kph was NORBERT MICHELISZ No.5 Zengo Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC. Making up for lost time after an engine change placed him at the back of the grid for Race One? Young Michelisz started P4 in Race Two.

Michelisz said “We lost the opportunity to fight for points in the first race because of the engine change. From fourth I managed to get a good start, racing side by side with Rob (ROB HUFF). Then I passed him. I tried to maintain a pace. Yvan was closing the gap so at the end my mentality was just to keep him back.”

For Race Two, the ambient temperature was a mere 80 degrees F/27C, with the track temperature 120 F/47C. For the first race, the temps were 91 F/33C and 112F/44C. Definitely not the near triple digit forecast promised the day before.

There was some moments of angst at the start of the race, with the black billows of smoke from a structure fire a few miles away, but it was extinguished.

Norbert Michelisz & Gabriele Tarquini
Norbert Michelisz & Gabriele Tarquini

Fourth and fifth finishers were Muller and TIEGO MONTEIRO No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC.

Race One winner, TOM CHILTON No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze, started tenth for Race Two, fell back to P14 and worked back up to finish eleventh. On the penultimate lap he went wide in Turn Two, but made the save.

Nineteen drivers finished on the lead lap. 2012 WTCC Champion, ROBERT HUFF No.1 SEAT Leon WTTC finished P20, one lap down. He pitted for a tire change after spinning out in Turn 2 on Lap Two. Non-classified drivers were Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW teammates, CHARLES NG No.7 and FRANZ ENGSTLER No.6.

The WTCC Drivers’ Championship standings are: YVAN MULLER-343; Tarquini-199; MICHELE NYKJAER-180, and tied for fourth/fifth are JAMES NASH and TOM CHILTON with 160 points. Muller was wise not to worry about clinching the championship this weekend – he said it was ‘premature.’ He’s way ahead, but the math still allows for a challenge. A victory garners 25 points.

Tarquini joked that It is a small ambition of this Italian to stretch out Yvan’s championship.”

Nykjaer remains the leader of the Yokohama Trophy standings, for independent drivers, with 134 points, but he is tied with Nash. Still third is ALEX MacDOWALL No.9 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze with 103 points. “My target is to win a race and I have three weekends left.”

With three Hondas finishing in the top five, Honda clinched the Manufacturers’ Championship with 756 points, ahead of LADA with 456 points. In its first full year, Honda already has two victories, two poles, and 12 other podiums. That’s good street cred for the next race in Japan.

Tarquini said it was important to have a good season for Honda. “My goal was to score a lot of points and win the manufacturer title. Crazy weekend for us.”

WTCC Race Two had a standing start and there were no incidents. Once the drivers got sorted out, they stayed in position, despite jockeying for place.

PEPE ORIOLA No.74 Tuenti Racing Team Chevrolet Cruze was observed by the FIA Stewards for his team members not respecting the 15-second board, he didn’t start his engine and the crew pushed him into Formation.

After the fact for Race One, The FIA Stewards assessed a 30-second time penalty to TOM BOARDMAN No.22 Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon WTCC and FERNANDO MONJE No.19 Campos Racing SEAT Leon WTC for speeding during the Race One rolling start. This penalty replaced a drive through, and added to the elapsed time for Race One. The Provisional Results had Boardman at P12 and Monje at P16. In the Official Results for WTCC Race One, Boardman was relegated to P21 and Monje finished P23.

Starting Lights

And away they go!

Nearby Brush Fire

An amazing thing, for me at least, was the complete lack of Cautions. There were none, the racing was safe and relatively sane, and no accidents.

Chilton’s father, GRAHAME CHILTON, tries to attend races of both sons, Max and Tom, but sometimes has conflicts. This weekend he chose California for Tom over Monza for Max, so Tom views Dad as his lucky charm. In Italy, son Max finished P20 in the Formula One race. In addition to following his sons’ races, Dad runs a race team which won the Macau Championship last year. And to show it’s a small world, WTCC Driver, Monteiro, manages the Chilton driver.

The next WTCC rounds are at Suzuka in Japan 21-22 September 2013.


Tom Chilton
Tom Chilton

Polesitter TOM CHILTON No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze won his first-ever World Touring Car Championship race Sunday at Sonoma Raceway. To say he was excited and pleased was an understatement. He just couldn’t stop smiling. He credited his father, GRAHAME CHILTON, for being his lucky charm at the race. Tom said “It was a pleasure to drive the car.”

Tiego Monteiro
Tiego Monteiro

Runner-up was TIAGO MONTEIRO No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC, who passed Chilton’s teammate, YVAN MULLER No.12 RML Chevrolet Cruze at the start and never looked back. They finished in that order. No doubt due to his efforts to catch Chilton, Monteiro turned the fastest race lap of 1:46.905/84.36 mph/135.77 kph. Chilton’s Margin of Victory was 2.161 seconds.

Monteiro started tenth, gaining nine positions for the finish, the most of any driver.

Yvan Muller
Yvan Muller

Current points leader, Muller, started the race in second place and finished third. He has a 151 points lead ahead of MICHEL NYKJAER No.17 Nika Racing Chevrolet Cruze in the Driver’s Championship standings. Nykjaer started in P17 due to his grid penalty, and finished thirteenth.If Muller scores 15 more points than Nykjaer in Sunday’s Race Two, Muller wins the 2013 WTCC Championship – with three races to go. Muller is adamant that he doesn’t want to think about that now – he wants to concentrate on winning Race Two at Sonoma. He will start ninth in the afternoon race, one spot ahead of his winning teammate, Chilton.

Fourth and fifth overall were ALEX MacDOWALL No.8 and JAMES NASH No.14, both driving Chevrolet Cruze’s for bamboo-engineering. MacDowall also won the Yokohama Trophy for independent drivers. He turned the fastest lap among the Yokohama contingent, at 1:47.212/84.12 mph/135.38 kph.

Nykjaer was the Yokohama points leader coming into the Sonoma weekend, five points ahead of Nash, and 33 points ahead of MacDowall. So, that battle is closer and more contested.

The closest battle was between FREDY BARTH No73 Weichers-Sport BMW 320 in P17, chasing FERNANDO MONJE No.19 Campos Racig SEAT Leon WTCC in P16. Their closing gap was a mere 0.0012.

Twenty-three drivers finished the race, all on the lead lap. DARRYL O’YOUNG No.55 ROAL Motorsport BMW pitted on Lap 6 and retired.

Chilton said “Tiago (Monteiro) made life tough at the beginning. I think I was worried about Muller rather than Tiago. it was happening all behind me in my mirrors. It was quite nice that everyone got through cleanly. I kept expecting a safety car. I’ve got the golden duck and now to get many more. I feel more relaxed for next race. Once you get your first win, a driver wants more.

“Today’s victory was extra sweet after last year. Our contracts were signed very late. This weekend I have some sponsor guests, so it’s nice to have the victory for them.”

Monteiro said he tried very hard. “It was very hot. My reaction time was very good. I was a bit worried about the tires. Tom drove brilliantly and made no mistakes. I’m very happy for myself and the team, here in California on the podium, a very nice place. I learned a lot from the race. I was very happy with my car, and surprised at the car’s performance during the race. It just was not enough to catch Tom.

It was pointed out to Muller that it is not often he’s seen in third position all alone. His response – “I just wasn’t fast enough.

MacDowall said “I went outside my teammate, and once I got my head down I had a good drive. Tried to catch Yvan but just couldn’t. as good as effort as doing. have a good solid weekend hopefully. James Nash gave 1-2 to bamboo engineering. I’m happy to drive the car once again. just to need to find that little tweak to catch the little white Chevy.

The three drivers who were penalized by having to go to the back of the grid appealed, but the Stewards ruled there was no new evidence to support a change, and the penalties were upheld.

The provisional grid for Race Two has been made official – no changes.

Go Giants!


Sunday morning’s temperature at Sonoma Raceway rose much slower than forecast, but still feeling hotter than mid-sixties F. During the Driver’s Autograph session, the sun’s glare shone on the World Touring Car Championship drivers, who were protected by flag gals with parasols.

Tom Coronel

Gabriele Tarquini

Mikhail Kozlovskiy

Darryl O'Young

Michel Nykjaer

Fernando Monje

Yokohama is the official tire of WTCC, and the manufacturer sends a large crew and product around the world to each venue. Sometimes time is of the essence, and as was between the last race in Argentina and this round in the US, everything was air-freighted. This happens after this weekend also, with less than a fortnight before the next race in Suzuka, Japan.

The FIA WTCC Stewards have been busy this weekend. There were hearings and penalties assessed after Qualifying. After Sunday morning Warm-Up, JAMES THOMPSON/No.10LADA Sport Lukoil LADA Granta got a fine of 250 Euros to be paid directly to FIA.

Franz Engstler
Franz Engstler
Pepe Oriola
Pepe Oriola

The age range for the drivers spans 32 years:PEPE ORIOLA No.74 Tuenti Racing Team Chevrolet Cruze at 19 years, and FRANZ ENGSTLER No.6 Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320 at 52 years.

As befitting an international FIA event, there are festivities, pomp, circumstances, flag gals, grid walks, and all that goes with.

Flag Gals

Grid Walk


Tom Chilton
Tom Chilton. Photo by Mike Doran

An excited TOM CHILTON/No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze won his first-ever pole position for FIA World Touring Car Championship, with a lap of 1:45.583/85.420 mph/137.47 kph at Sonoma Raceway. The pole qualifying record of 1:45.232 was set last year by ALAIN MENU/Chevrolet, who isn’t racing this year.

Chilton turned his time on his last flying lap which ended after the checkered flag had flown in Q2. Up to that point, his RML teammate, YVAN MULLER/No.12 Chevrolet Cruze, had been fastest – in Q1 and Q2. The two teammates joked about what would happen going into Turn Two on the first race lap.

Yvan Muller & Tom Chilton
Yvan Muller & Tom Chilton

Third through fifth were TIAGO MONTEIRO/No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC-the only non-Chevrolet in the top five; PEPE ORIOLA/No.74 Tuenti Racing Team Chevrolet Cruze, and ALEX MacDOWALL/No.9 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet Cruze with his maiden pole position for the Yokohama Trophy for independents.

Chilton said “I love this circuit and I’m in a car that can win. It was a scary lap, perfect and enjoyable to drive.” Earlier, in Q1, he dodged the bullet with a spin cresting Turn One’s hill into Turn Two. He slid across the dry grass and stopped short of the tire wall. “So I won’t be doing that again soon.”

Chilton broke his teammate’s streak of five consecutive pole positions. Muller said “I’m Pleased that streak was broken by Tom. I thought I had a good chance for my second pole. My car is heavier, with ballast, and it’s pretty much the same going up hill and down hill. I’m very pleased, honestly.”

Monteiro said he had problems in first session. “I hope to have an even wider car than Chilton. Starting on pole position here at Sonoma is a big, big deal.”

MacDowell said “It’s tough to get that perfect lap, so this is a good result. Hope it translate to my first Yokohama Trophy victory.”

Alex MacDowell, Yvan Muller, Tom Chilton & Tiago Monteiro
Alex MacDowall, Yvan Muller, Tom Chilton & Tiago Monteiro

The FIA Stewards were busy after Qualifying. DANIEL FAUSEL of Costa Rica is the Chairman, working with DANIEL COEN of Switzerland. In each country the local FIA ASN assigns a steward. In the US, the FIA ASN is ACCUS and TIM MAYER is Sonoma’s ASN Steward.

After Qualifying, the Zengo Motorsport team applied to the FIA Stewards on behalf of driver NORBERT MICHELISZ to change the engine in his Honda Civic WTCC. Permission granted with a grid penalty putting him to the back of the field for Race One.

Three other drivers will be joining Michelisz at the back of the grid for their race cars failing the post-qualifying scrutineering “because their driver’s seats were set back beyond the limits fixed by the Safety Prescription of the technical regulations: Article 263.6.2 of the Appendix J. They lost their qualifying times and will start at the back for both races. MICHEL NYKJER/No. Chevrolet Cruze, HUGO VALENTE/No. SEAT Leon, and FERNANDO MONJE/No. SEAT Leon – will line up in that order, based on Q1.

Three other drivers ran afoul of the Stewards. Two received a formal reprimand imposed “considering the special specific situation in Sonoma.” They were STEFANO D’ASTE/No.26 PB Raving BMW 320 and MacDowall, for car stopping in front of garage on way to parc ferme. TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW received no further action after meeting with Stewards – regarding his not respecting parc ferme rules during Q2 (in which he did not participate.)

The way WTCC qualifying works this year is that all 24 drivers run the first twenty-minute session. The top 12 from that group proceed to the second, ten-minute session. That sets the grid for Race One. For Race Two, the top ten qualifiers from Saturday’s Q2 are reversed. Thusly, Chilton will start Race Two in P10, and GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Castrol Honda WTC Team will be on pole for that race.

Race One will have a rolling start, while Race Two will have a standing start.

To further mix-up things, in 2014, the top five drivers from Q2 will advance to Q3 and get one flying lap to set the top five on the grid for Race One.

The temperature was 95F/35C with almost no breeze. The track was a scorching 117F/47C.

The two WTCC Qualifying sessions were back to back, with only five minutes between sessions.

Last year Muller won Race One and Huff won Race Two, with Muller turning the fastest lap in both races.

Prior to Saturday’s on-track sessions, all 24 cars were seen and passed by Scrutineering.

Muller was able to produce an extension to the homologation form issued at the previous race at Termas de Rio Hondo, having to do with reverse gear ratio. Basically, what this means is that at the race in Argentina, the reverse gear ratio which was seen in Scrutineering was not listed in the homologation. The Stewards penalized Muller, and then held a hearing and suspended the penalty. It was decided the problem was an administrative error, and all the Chevrolets had the same part. For this weekend’s race, an extension to the homologation was presented and approved.

The issuing of wet-weather tires to the WTCC teams is nothing more than wishful thinking. The Sonoma area is so dry and parched from lack of rain, that voluntary water rationing is imposed in Sonoma County this weekend.

In Qualifying, TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 TC had an in-car camera with a camera angle which prominently displayed his sign “Tom Coronel – Eat My Dust!” Others with onboards were Chilton, Muller, Tarquini, MICHELE NYKJAER/No.17 Nika Racing Chevrolet Cruze, and JAMES THOMPSON/10 LADA Sport Lukoil LADA Granta.

Regarding Sunday’s forecast for even hotter weather and how it will affect tire wear, Chilton said “For sure, it will be hard on tires. We have experience racing in hot conditions. I hope I can make a wide car so I can get my first win.

“Everyone will hurt and suffer from Sunday’s even hotter temperatures. The tires and cars haven’t changed from last year. Maybe this year there is more rubber down. The cars are brakig a lot later this year. You can gain seconds that way. You’ll need lots of cameras down by Seven and Seven B. That will be exciting.”

The races will be aired on CBS Sports Network with a same-day broadcast starting at 2pm local time/5pm ET.

Parc Ferme
Parc Ferme


Yvan Muller
Yvan Muller

YVAN MULLER of France ran a 1:46.268/84.873mph/136.59 kph lap in his RML Chevrolet Cruze to top the charts in the second practice for the FIA World Touring Car Championship race at Sonoma Raceway. Three drivers, including Muller, turned faster times in the first practice.

Norbert Michelisz
Norbert Michelisz

Second through fifth were NORBERT MICHELISZ/No.5 Zengo Motorsport Honda Civic WTCC, who led much of the session; HUGO VALENTE/No.20 Campos Racing SEAT Leon WTCC; GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC; and TOM CHILTON/No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze.

Robert Huff
Robert Huff

ROBERT HUFF/No.1 ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon WTCC didn’t have the best of sessions. He spent time in the pits up on jacks, and had the slowest time in the session.

TOM CORONEL/N.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 WTCC got a complete new front end after his adventure with the Turn Eleven tire wall on his out lap in the first session. He was seventeenth fastest in the second session.

The Red Flag in the second session was for FERNANDO MONJE/No.19 Campos Racing SEAT Leon WTCC for his mishap with the Turn Six tire wall. Neither drivers were hurt and ended up ninth fastest in the second session.

By 11am local time, the temperatures had already soared to 86 F/30C, with the track registering 104F/40C. There was but the barest of breezes.

There are no American drivers this season competing in WTCC. The twenty-four drivers come from a variety of countries including five from Great Britain; three from Germany; two each from France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, and Spain; and one each from Denmark, Hungary, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, and Switzerland.

Qualifying comes next on the WTCC schedule, two sessions – one for each of the two Sunday races.




Saturday morning at Sonoma has hot temperatures and no wind at all for Day One of the World Touring Car Championship races at Sonoma Raceway. This is the second visit by the FIA international series, and it’s only American stop on the 12-race schedule. It will be an action-packed weekend, with two Sunday WTCC races. Also racing this weekend are Pirelli GT3 Porsche Cup, US Touring Car Championship and the Yokohama Drifting Demonstrations.

PEPE ORIOLA/No.74 Tuenti Racing Team Chevrolet Cruz was the fastest of 23 WTCC drivers in the first free practice at 1:45.966/85.115 mph/136.98 kph.

Second through fifth were TOM CHILTON/No.23 RML Chevrolet Cruze, YVAN MULLER/No.12 RML Chevrolet Cruze, GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC, and 2012 WTCC Champion, ROBERT HUFF/No.1 ALL-INKL.COM Munnich Motorsport SEAT Leon WTCC.

While only running third for Muller, don’t be deceived. He’s top of many other WTCC charts for 2013 and in the past: most race wins-36; most pole positions-20; most fastest laps-6; and most laps led-69. And, Muller races a Chevrolet, which has topped the WTCC stats with most race wins, most poles, most fastest laps and most laps led.

Chilton’s younger brother, MAX CHILTON/Marrusia struggled in Monza Italy for Formula One Qualifying, gridding last of the 22 drivers.

Twenty-three of the 24 drivers were on course. Only TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 was not on track.

Friday the WTCC drivers had a test session, with TIAGO MONTEIRO/No.18 Castrol Honda WTC Team Honda Civic WTCC fastest. The session was mostly incident-free, with JAMES THOMPSON/No.10 LADA Sport Lukoil LADA Granta having a suspension/loose wheel problem; and spins by CHARLES NG/No.7 Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320, DARRYL O’YOUNG/No.55 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320, and FERNANDO MONJE/No.19 Campos Racing SEAT Leon WTCC.


Rob Huff
Rob Huff. Photo by Bob Tarvin-Tarvin Images

ROBERT HUFF/No.2 Chevrolet won Race Two of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Sonoma. This was the first visit to the United States for the eight-year old international touring car series, known for its aggressive and enthusiastic racing, especially in the second of its two feature sprint races.

Hot on Huff’s rear bumper was privateer NORBERT MICHELISZ/No.5 Zengo Motorsport BMW 320 TC, who gave it his best shot.

Third through fifth were GABRIELE TARQUINI in No.3 Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon; Huff’s teammate, ALAIN MENU/No.8 Chevrolet; and TOM CORONEL/No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW, after starting second to last in the 21-car field. Lap after lap the Flying Dutchman picked off his rivals.

Michelisz, Huff & Tarquini
Michelisz, Huff & Tarquini. Photo by Bob Tarvin-Tarvin Images

In Victory Circle it was again Sonoma President, STEVE PAGE, presenting Huff his Winner’s Trophy. NICK CRAW, President of ACCUS, presented the Manufacturer’s Trophy to VIJAY IYER, Director Communications Chevrolet Europe. Cue “God Save The Queen” and the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Chevrolet is ten points shy of winning the 2012 Manufacturer’s Championship. It has 761 points, with closest rival – BMW Customer Racing Teams with 486 points. It’s on Cruze Control.

Prior to the weekend, FIA issued its Compensation Weights for Rounds 17 & 18 at Sonoma. Chevrolet was given an extra 40 kilos/88.1 pounds. BMW, Ford and SUNRED Leon 1.6T lost twenty kilos/44.1 pounds, and SEAT Leon WTCC remained the same.

Huff’s other factory teammate, YVAN MULLER/No.1 Chevrolet had started eighth on the inverted grid, after winning Race One and was leading. It was his race to lose, and lose he did. He got a great start and was up to P5 by Turn Two of Lap One, then P3 on Lap Two. On Lap Four he hit second-place driver, FRANZ ENGSTLER of Germany in No.6 Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW. Engstler spun and Huff charged through and took the lead, before the Safety Car was dispatched for another driver who ‘abandoned’ his car – MEHDI BENNANI of Morocco in No.25 Proteam Racing BMW.

Muller continued to lead until the Stewards assessed him with a Drive Through Penalty for causing the collision with Engstler. This dropped him back to last, and he worked his way back to finish P14 of 18 cars running.

In WTCC, there is an assigned Driver’s Steward, who monitors the racers’ driving. There is a pool of such Stewards. This weekend it’s TIM SCHENKEN of Melbourne, Australia, the Formula One Clerk of the Course for the Australian Formula One GP.

Muller said “I was looking after my tires in the first race. In the second race, I was points ahead, then I touched Monje. I was stupid on the mistake.”

Before the penalty, Muller had turned the fastest race lap of 1:47.732/83.72 mph/134.73 kph on Lap Eight. The eager privateer, Michaelisz, was second fastest overall on Lap Two, at 1:47.937/83.56 mph/134.47 kph.

The Eurosport WTCC race announcer, MARTIN HAVEN, said it was the WTCC version of America’s Push To Pass. “It didn’t look too friendly.”

Another penalty was assessed to CHARLES NG KA KI of Hong Kong, driving No.7 Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW. His problem was a dragging rear bumper, caused by another aggressive driver, and for two laps Ng ignored the Mechanical Black Flag to pit for repair. Ng was the last car running at the Checkered Flag, P20 – but he was excluded from the results.

The weather had warmed up for the second race – 82 degrees F/28 C.

Sonoma the race track has a new ambassador – Tarquini. He continued to be enthusiastic and effusive in his accolades for the circuit. ” I want to thank Sonoma track for a great race; it was on our level, and a very good site for our race. I enjoyed it all.”

The track doesn’t release attendance figures, but everyone seemed to agree the turnout was better than expected for a new series with international drivers. The PA announcer apologized more than once for the long line at the beer vendors, blaming the unexpected crowd.

Robb Holland No.29 Chevrolet
Robb Holland No.29 Chevrolet. Photo by Mike Rutherford.

ROBB HOLLAND of Denver CO was running his first-ever WTCC race, in a deal put together literally hours before he sat in the car-No.29 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet. He finished thirteenth in Race One and sixteenth in Race Two

The short break between the two sprint races went quickly. The Race One winning car went to Victory Circle and then back to the grid for Race Two.

The cars all lined up on the pit lane grid. The crews circled the car, awaiting their turn. There were count-down boards, and then the buzzer rang, which is the green light for the crews to beaver away on their cars. It’s amazing what can be done in fifteen minutes – such as a whole front axle for ALEKSEI DUDUKALO/No.4 SEAT Leon WTCC. He retired on the first lap of Race One after being involved in the four-car first-lap incident in Turn One. For JAMES NASH/No.Team Aon Ford, who also suffered crash damage, permission was granted to work longer, putting Nash at the back of the grid for Race Two. Such permission is called “neutralization.” Also being “neutralized” and starting at the rear for the second race was PEPE ORIOLA/No.74 Tuenti Racing Team SEAT.

Now the race is on for the crews, to get everything packed away in the shipping containers, so they can leave Monday morning at 6am. Next race for the FIA WTCC Series is Suzuka, Japan on 21 October 2012.

The Sonoma race has a two-hour show on SPEED, airing Sunday night, with Haven’s commentary. It is scheduled for at least one repeat showing. Not to be missed.


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!


Park Ferme

ALAIN MENU of Switzerland pipped his closest contenders on the last lap at Sonoma to garner the pole for Sundays World Touring Car Challenge Series races. His lap was 1:45.232/85.71 mph/137.93 kph in No.8 Chevrolet. It was a very exciting session, which saw the top spot change almost as fast as each car took the checkered flag. There were at least four changes on the last lap.

GABRIELE TARQUINI of Italy was second, driving No.3 SEAT Leon WTCC, followed by current points leader YVAN MULLER of France in No.1 Chevrolet and his teammate, ROBERT HUFF of Great Britain in No.2 Chevrolet. Fifth was NORBERT MICHELISZ of Hungary/No.5 Zengo Motorsport. Michelisz was the top Yokohama Trophy qualifying driver and leads the standings for privateer/independent drivers. Muller is going for his third straight WTCC Championship, and fourth in five years

Alain Menu
Alain Menu T2
Alain Menu Photo by Bob Tarvin/Tarvin Images

Saturday’s wine country weather for WTCC Qualifying was hot with a listless breeze – 82 degrees F/28 C. That was quite a change from morning practices, at 57F/14C in P1 and 71F/22C in P2.

WTCC qualifying is run in two segments – everyone in Q1 and the top 12 in Q2. But, it’s considered one session. ALEKSEI DUDUKALO of Russia missed Q2. In Q1, he beached his No.4 Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon WTCC up the hill between Turns One and Two in Q1. Dudukalo required assistance to get restarted. WTCC rules decree if you can’t restart under your own power, you are through for the rest of the session. So – Dudukalo missed Q2.

In Q1, Muller was fastest, followed by teammate Huff, Tarquini, Menu and TIEGO MONTEIRO/No.3 Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon WTCC.

The two WTCC Sprint races are run differently. Race One has a rolling start and the pole position starts on the left – inside at Sonoma. Race Two has a standing start, and the pole car starts on the right – outside. That grid has the top ten Q2 starting in reverse order, meaning the Race 2 pole driver will be STEFANO D’ASTE of Italy in No.26 Weichers-Sport BMW 320 TC.

Menu was not happy with having to start Race One on the left.

This was Menu’s fourth pole this season. He characterized it as his last gasp pole. Menu admitted to making a mistake in Turn Four, which did not make him happy. The team changed his car a tiny bit for Q2.

Muller said he was not surprised Menu got pole position. “We know the Chevrolets have been quick everywhere. This course is quite challenging. I like it.”

Menu was effusive, as were all the drivers, about the Sonoma circuit. He said “The course was fantastic, and my lap was clean. With so many cars going off in all the races, the track was dirty. but, it (the change) worked.”

“Track conditions change quickly as temperatures change, making setup a bit difficult. Conditions didn’t change much between the two qualifying sessions, but did change between practice and qualifying. A dirty track around a blind corner can be tricky.

“There are overtaking opportunities, maybe up to three places where it’s possible. It’s easier to make a mistake on this track than tracks in Europe.”

Gabriele Tarquini, Alain Menu, Yvan Muller, & Norbert Michelisz

Tarquini was the second fastest qualifier. He said “I made a mistake with my engineer. We made changes before the last two laps, and I destroyed my tires. Tire wear is very hard. My mistake. My car was very good. Sonoma is an exciting track – fantastic. Starting second won’t be a disadvantage here. Turn Two is good, but I prefer Turn Three. It’s a good fight to survive in that corner on every lap.

“Chevrolet is the car to beat.

“After watching everyone yesterday, I thought this track is for young drivers. But, after seeing today’s qualifying performance, that’s not true.” Tarquini is the second oldest driver in the series, and Menu is third.

Tarquini predicted surprises in Sunday’s races.

The Americans have a saying that Age and Treachery will triumph over Youth and Good Looks. Stay tuned.

Muller said “I race harder to keep in front of (teammate) Huff, who’s second in the standings. This is not the moment to play any games. I have to push.

“My second try in Q2 didn’t work. Starting third is better than fourth, but I have the car …. my mistake in turn nine cost me. We’ll be tough. Tires will be absolutely a factor. We’re having more wear than expected, so I’ll have to be gentle on tires.”

Michelisz, current privateer points leader, – first in the Yokohama Trophy for privateers – to be 1.326 seconds off the pole is not good. I need to be first in the independents.” His closest competitor is ALEX MACDOWALL of Great Britain/No.11 bamboo-engineering Chevrolet, who qualified sixth. “Maybe I don’t try to take too many risks to fight with Alex.”

A couple of cars drove off in Turn Five including TOM CORONEL, again, in his No.15 ROAL Motorsport BMW 320 TC.

The WTCC sprint races start at 1:35 pm local time. They will be televised, tape delay on SPEED. Check your local listings.


Marcello Lotti & Gabriele Tarquini
Marcello Lotti & Gabriele Tarquini

GABRIELE TARQUINI/No.3 Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon WTCC was the fastest driver in the second of two World Touring Car Championship World Series sessions Saturday noon at Sonoma. His lap of 1:46.457 was slower than the earlier fast times set by YVAN MULLER/No.1 Chevrolet and TOM CHILTON/no.23 Team Aon Ford.

Second through fifth in Practice Two were Muller; TIAGO MONTEIRO/No.18 Tuenti Racing Team SUNRED Leon 1.6T; TOM BOARDMAN/No.22 Special Tune Racing SEAT Leon WTCC; and ROBERT HUFF/No.2 Chevrolet.

The ROAL Motorsport BMW teammates, ALBERTO CERQUI and TOM CORONEL, continued to struggle with the 2.5-mile long Sonoma course. They took turns spinning off and on the track. They weren’t alone in dealing with difficulties. FRANZ ENGSTLER/No.6 Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320 TC also spun out in Turn Two, which seemed to be the place to overdrive the course. STEFANO D’ASTE/No.26 Wiechers-Sport BMW drove off Turn Seven at speed – and kind of short cut the course.

The WTCC Series, run by General Manager, MARCELLO LOTTI, is eight years old, and for the last seven years Yokohama has been its official tire. The tire contract was recently extended for another three years. The custom-made WTCC tires are 17-inch and medium compound. Two types are run – slicks and wets. All teams run the same tire, regardless if they have a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive car. This puts a lot on the teams and drivers to adapt to a wide range of conditions, and Yokohama works with the teams toward this end – optimization.

At each race, Yokohama brings 800-900 tires, and 300-400 tires are fitted. Each car is allowed 12 new tires and can bring eight used tires from prior events. The tires are sold, not leased, so the teams retain the tires after the race meeting. FIA keeps track of all the tires by the use of Bar Codes, so there is no mistaking the number or condition of tires.

FIA Tech Garage
FIA Tech Garage
Yokohama Garage
Yokohama Garage