ROSNEFT WTCC RACE OF RUSSIA PREVIEW: 29 May 2015
2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship rounds nine and 10 of 24
Moscow Raceway (Russia) 5-7 June?
Eight action-packed races run, four winners and a whole heap of drama – the 2015 FIA World Touring Car Championship is proving to be a big hit and the chase for more success continues apace at the Moscow Raceway next week (5-7 June) with ROSNEFT WTCC Race of Russia.
A new addition to the WTCC schedule in 2013, the Russian event has produced plenty of sensational racing not to mention a landmark winner in 2014 when Ma Qing Hua triumphed in the second of two races to become the first Chinese driver to win a world championship motor race.
Located 70 kilometres from the Russian capital in the Volkolamsky District, the Moscow Raceway opened for business in 2012 and is one of the newest venues on the current WTCC calendar. Eighteen drivers are entered for the two 16-lap races with the three LADA Sport ROSNEFT racers expected to get the biggest cheer from the fans.
Led by 2012 champion Rob Huff, LADA’s factory team completed 2014 with a brace of wins courtesy of its British driver and began 2015 with its all-new Vesta TC1. While the project is still in its infancy, Huff was quickest of all in Qualifying Q1 in Argentina and scored a season-best seventh in Germany earlier this month to underline the car’s potential. In a change to its original line-up, Nick Catsburg will make his WTCC debut in Russia in a third Vesta following on from confirmation that his fellow Dutchman, Jaap van Lagen, will complete the season with the Russian squad.
WTCC title-holder José María López remains the driver to beat in 2015 after he notched up his fourth race one victory of the season at the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife. López, a winner in Moscow last year, heads the standings by 50 points but faces strong competition from a host of drivers all looking to catch Argentina’s finest. They include his Citroën team-mates Sébastien Loeb, Ma Qing Hua andYvan Muller plus Honda trio Norbert Michelisz, Tiago Monteiro and Gabriele Tarquini. Muller won the inaugural WTCC Race of Russia in 2013 and is just one point behind Loeb in the drivers’ table following his 43rd WTCC career victory in Germany. Michelisz has winning form in 2015 following his victory in race two in Hungary, while Monteiro claimed his maiden podium of the campaign with a strong outing at the Nürburgring in the revamped Civic.
Mehdi Bennani: The Moroccan got his 2015 campaign back on track with an impressive display on his Nürburgring debut last time out and finished third in Russia last season.
Tom Chilton: Out of luck in Germany, the ROAL-run Briton believes some of the set-up issues that have masked his true pace this year have now been cured with a return to settings used in 2014.
Tom Coronel: Expect more qualifying tactics from the Dutchman, who will be vying for ninth or 10th in order to secure a front-row start for the reverse grid second race, which he reckons gives him his best chance of adding to his win tally in the WTCC.
Stefano D’Aste: Valentino Rossi’s former team-mate during his previous career as a motorbike racer, D’Aste was twice in the top 10 on his last appearance in Moscow back in 2013.
Grégoire Demoustier: With overall points eluding him in Germany, the Frenchman will look to use his Moscow Raceway experience, garnered from his past GT exploits, for a successful weekend.
John Filippi: The WTCC’s youngest driver, aged 20, scored a Yokohama Drivers’ Trophy podium brace on his Moscow Raceway debut last season.
Rickard Rydell: Experienced Swede Rydell returns to action for the first time since Argentina in early March after being struck down thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland. He prepared for his comeback with a successful two-day test at Mantorp Park in his homeland.
Hugo Valente: One of the stars of qualifying in Hungary and Germany, Valente is determined to translate is obvious pace into strong race results in his Campos Racing Chevrolet.
NEW WTCC DRIVER, NEW CHALLENGE AS CATSBURG GETS LADA SEAT IN RUSSIA
Nick Catsburg will make his FIA World Touring Car Championship debut when he enters ROSNEFT WTCC Race of Russia in a third LADA Vesta TC1. The Dutchman, 27, will replace Mikhail Kozlovskiy in the LADA Sport ROSNEFT line-up alongside compatriot Jaap van Lagen and 2012 WTCC champion Rob Huff. Catsburg, who has achieved considerable success in sportscar and endurance events, said: “This will be a completely new challenge. The first laps during the test in Magny-Cours were a big surprise – this car really requires a specific driving style with all that power on the front axle. Once I got some more laps in, I started to get used to the car and the driving style, and really started to enjoy driving this car. Braking and the car’s performance at high speed were very impressive. The race will of course be difficult, but with the help of the team and my experienced team-mates I am sure we can do well. The Moscow WTCC round is obviously an important one to LADA and our main sponsor ROSNEFT and it is a real pleasure to share this event with them. I have looked at several onboards from the Moscow Raceway and it looks very technical, I can’t wait to get started.”
Name: Moscow Raceway
Location: 39 Sheludkovo Village, Volokolamsky District, Moscow Region, 143650, Russia
Length: 3.391 kilometres
Race distance: 2 x 16 laps
Lap record (qualifying): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 1m38.651s (143.450kph), 07/06/14
Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 1m40.148s (141.307kph), 08/06/14
WTCC appearances: Two (2013 and 2014)
Time zone: GMT +3 hours
Sunrise/sunset: 03h48/21h09 (Sunday 7 June)
Average temperature: 13°C-22°C
DID YOU KNOW?
At 17,075,400 square kilometres, Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than an eighth off the Earth’s land area; with 142 million people it is the ninth largest by population.