The race to win the 2021 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup enters a crucial phase in Italy next week when Adria International Raceway hosts the penultimate event of the action-packed season.

Like Autodrom Most and Circuit Pau-Arnos before, Adria’s expanded 3.745-kilometre layout is new to the WTCR. And while several drivers sampled the longer lap during pre-season testing, none have done so in competition.

This exciting unknown quantity will make Free Practice 1 and 2 on Saturday November 6 more crucial than normal as drivers and their teams work to finalise a pacesetting set-up ahead of the three-stage Qualifying that afternoon.

Known as the home of FIA World Touring Car racing having hosted the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Championship round in 1987, the FIA Touring Car World Cup in 1993 and the rebirth of the WTCC in 2005, Italy makes its first WTCR appearance in 2021. The category’s homecoming is therefore eagerly anticipated, particularly by home hero Gabriele Tarquini, the first King of WTCR in 2018 and a racing legend.

“It’s great to have this race in Italy, I have a lot of fans following me, especially in the last part of my career and Italy is my country, I love Italy,” said the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse driver.  “In 2017 [the last time there was a WTCC event in Italy] I wasn’t there because I missed most of that season and it’s a long time ago since my last race in Italy.”

One of 10 drivers to win a WTCR round in 2021, Tarquini is set to be joined on the Adria grid by another Italian, Nicola Baldan, the winner of the Campionato Italiano Turismo title in 2017. Like Tarquini, Tarqet Competition-run Baldan competes in a Goodyear-equipped Hyundai Elantra N TCR. Having contested WTCR Race of Hungary in August as a wildcard, Baldan fills one of his team’s all-season entries, which means he’ll be eligible for outright and WTCR Trophy points and won’t have to carry the additional 10 kilograms of compensation weight.

WTCR Race of Italy is also an important event for BRC Racing Team. It’s based in Cherasco in the Cuneo province in the northwest of the country and is behind the BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Squadra Corse entries of Tarquini and Norbert Michelisz, who succeeded Tarquini as the King of WTCR in 2019 and won Race 2 at WTCR Race of Czech Republic earlier this month.

The WTCR’s Italian connection doesn’t end with BRC either. Target Competition, an all-season WTCR entrant for the first time this season, operates from premises in Andrian close to Bolzano in northern Italy. Meanwhile, the Honda Civic Type R TCRs used by the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport and ALL-INKL.DE Münnich Motorsport teams are built by JAS Motorsport close to Milan.

 While Münnich drivers Néstor GirolamiTiago Monteiro and Attila Tassi have won WTCR races in 2021, perennial title contender Esteban Guerrieri has yet to finish first this season. Having fought his way back into contention during the events in Czech Republic and France, Guerrieri starts WTCR Race of Italy 22 points behind Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Yann Ehrlacher and ready to pounce should the Frenchman falter. However, as the reigning King of WTCR, the 25-year-old Cyan Racing Lynk & Co star rarely does so.

After bagging his second win of 2021 at WTCR Race of France, Italian-speaking Frenchman Jean-Karl Vernay (Engstler Hyundai N Liqui Moly Racing Team) is 16 points behind Ehrlacher and on a high following his home victory earlier this month. Vernay’s team-mate Luca Engstler also starts WTCR Race of Italy on the up following on from his seventh TCR category title when he secured the ADAC TCR Germany crown last weekend.

Like Vernay, Frédéric Vervisch headed home to his native Belgium from WTCR Race of France as a double 2021 winner, one of only two drivers to have achieved such a feat this season, such has been the wide-open nature of current title battle.

Vervisch’s fellow Comtoyou Team Audi Sport driver Gilles Magnus has also won in 2021. But following tough weekends in Czech Republic and France, the FIA WTCR Junior Driver Title leader is planning a “complete reset” ahead of the Adria weekend as he bids to get his overall title challenge back on track aboard his second-generation Audi RS 3 LMS. Nathanäel Berthon and Tom Coronel compete under the Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport banner and have WTCR race-winning pedigree.

As well as proving tough for Magnus, the WTCR Race of France weekend offered poor reward for the Zengő Motorsport quintet of Mikel AzconaBence BoldizsJordi Gené and Rob Huff who all fought unsuccessfully to score top results at Circuit Pau-Arnos in their CUPRA Leon Competición. They are all capable of bouncing back in Adria.

The WTCR’s first visit to France provided better return for Ehrlacher’s Lynk & Co-powered Cyan team-mates Thed BjörkYvan Muller and Santiago Urrutia who all finished on the podium.

*Vernay beats pole-sitting fellow Frenchman Muller to Race 2 glory for second win of 2021

*His victory narrows gap to Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Ehrlacher in WTCR title chase to 16 points
*Urrutia joins Cyan team-mate Muller on Race 2 podium on Lynk & Co’s fifth anniversary
*Vervisch unstoppable in Race 1 for Comtoyou Team Audi Sport to become first double 2021 winner
*Björk and Tarquini complete Race 1 podium with four customer racing brands in top four
*Engstler is twice the top FIA WTCR Junior Driver, Coronel claims a WTCR Trophy double
*TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy goes to Vervisch following Race 2 charge
*Challenging venue new to WTCR also hosts PURE ETCR all-electric touring car series title decider

- Advertisement -