Battle for WTCC title continues as second half of the season starts in Spa. Munich, 25th July 2005. After its Mexican adventure, the FIA World Touring Car Championship 2005 (WTCC) returns to Europe this weekend. Against the backdrop of the 24 Hour Race on the Circuit Spa-Francorchamps, rounds eleven and twelve of the championship will be held on Saturday. After the recent races in Puebla which saw only Antonio Garcia (ESP) of BMW Team Italy-Spain and BMW Team UK driver Andy Priaulx (GBR) picking up championship points, the yield for the BMW national teams is expected to be bigger once again in Belgium.
The 6.976-kilometre circuit in the Ardennes is the longest on the WTCC calendar and resembles a rollercoaster. On the long uphill sections, engine power is paramount. The BMW drivers are able to draw on 275 bhp generated by the P54 engine in the rear of their BMW 320i. However, in Spa-Francorchamps more than anywhere else, the weight handicaps will have a great impact on the performance of the cars. In 1921 the circuit was inaugurated with a motorcycle race. Since 1950, Formula One has been hosted by Spa-Francorchamps 38 times.
The European Touring Car Championship came to Belgium three times from 2002 to 2004. Four out of the six races were won by BMW drivers. Jörg Müller (GER) alone climbed to the top of the podium twice for BMW Team Deutschland, while Priaulx and the current championship leader Dirk Müller (GER), who is also racing for BMW Team Deutschland, claimed victory here as well. Arguably the most famous section of the circuit is Eau Rouge, a left-right combination through a dip that still rates as a heart-stopping turn.
Bart Mampaey, team manager of BMW Team UK, is the only Belgian represented in the WTCC. Under his leadership, the RBM Team based in Mechelen is fielding the BMW 320i driven by Priaulx. "For me Spa is of course a very special event," says Mampaey. "The circuit is undoubtedly one of the most attractive in the world. In 2003 Andy managed to celebrate victory there. It would be great to have a repeat performance this year. However, the weather in Spa is always unpredictable. Let's wait and see."
Ahead of the races on the Belgian track in its natural setting, the competition in the WTCC rankings is tighter than ever. Behind Dirk Müller, who leads with 47 points, are several drivers who can justifiably nurture hopes for the first World Championship title in touring car racing since 1987. Priaulx is in third place with 42 points and Garcia is three points adrift of him in fourth. Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) of BMW Team Italy-Spain currently has six points, placing him 13th.
In the Manufacturers' Championship, BMW and Alfa Romeo are joint leaders with 129 points each. SEAT is in third place with 98 points.
World Championship standings after 10 out of 20 races:
Drivers' standings: 1st Dirk Müller 47 points, 2nd Fabrizio Giovanardi 45, 3rd Andy Priaulx 42, 4th Antonio Garcia 39, 5th Gabriele Tarquini 38, 6th Rickard Rydell 33, 7th James Thompson 32, 8th Augusto Farfus jr. 29, 9th Jörg Müller 27, 10th Peter Terting 17, ?13th Alessandro Zanardi 6
Manufacturers' standings: 1st BMW 129 points, 1st Alfa Romeo 129, 3rd SEAT 98, 4th Chevrolet 32, 5th Ford 2
Weight handicaps: Antonio Garcia 55 kilograms, Dirk Müller 40, Andy Priaulx 40, Jörg Müller 10, Alessandro Zanardi -
Thursday, 28th July 2005
18.00 - 18.30 hrs Test
Friday, 29th July 2005
09.00 - 09.30 hrs 1st Free Practice 11.30 - 12.00 hrs 2nd Free Practice 15.30 - 16.00 hrs Qualifying
Saturday, 30th July 2005
08.35 - 08.55 hrs Warm-up 12.10 - 12.35 hrs 1st Race - 8 laps (55.78 km) 13.20 - 13.45 hrs 2nd Race - 8 laps (55.78 km)
The Eurosport television channel transmits live broadcasts of the FIA WTCC races and each warm-up.
Race calendar FIA WTCC 2005
10th April Monza, Italy 1st May Magny-Cours, France 15th May Silverstone, England 29th May Imola, Italy 26th June Puebla, Mexico 30th July Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium 28th August Oschersleben, Germany 18th September Istanbul, Turkey 2nd October Valencia, Spain 20th November Macau, China
Jeff Seabrook has been with us since Sunday, February 15, 2004.