The 19th and 20th rounds of the FIA WTCC will take place in Japan, at Suzuka’s East Circuit this weekend.
This is the fourth consecutive visit of the FIA World Touring Car Championship to the Country of the Rising Sun, however it is the first time that the WTCC Race of Japan will take place at Suzuka.
From 2008 to 2010, the championship’s Japanese event was hosted by the Okayama International Circuit, where BMW scored three victories (Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus in 2009, Colin Turkington in 2010), SEAT two (Rickard Rydell and Tom Coronel in 2008) and Chevrolet one (Rob Huff in 2010).
The switch to Suzuka was mainly due to logistics needs, however the WTCC will not run on the full 5.8-km Grand Prix track, but on the 2.2-km East Circuit, for two 23-lap races. The last time Suzuka hosted another FIA World Championship event besides the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan was twenty-two years ago: the Suzuka 480 Kms counting towards the 1989 World Sportscar Championship.
After launching the Cruze cars in 2009, which earned six race wins during its ﬁrst season, the Chevrolet team managed to win both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles in 2010.
The three Chevrolet Cruze factory cars (above) are built and run by Ray Mallock’s RML, one of the most experienced and winning teams in Touring Car racing.
Yvan Muller joined Chevrolet last year to win straightaway the 2010 World Championship, Alain Menu is a Touring Car legend with two BTCC titles and 12 race wins in WTCC, Rob Huff is the youngest and regarded as one of the favourites for this year’s title ﬁght after ﬁnishing twice third in 2008 and 2010.
For 2011 Japanese rally and ice racing champion Toshi Arai will also join Chevrolet for the Suzuka race.
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN JAPAN
What Yvan Muller and Rob Huff have in common with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna?
The fact that they are racing for the same team, fighting for an FIA world championship title and facing a crucial confrontation on the Suzuka circuit in Japan, that’s what!
In 1989 Prost and Senna were pretty much in the same situation; when the McLaren drivers arrived at the Japanese Grand Prix, the Frenchman was leading the championship by 16 points ahead of his team-mate who needed two victories at Suzuka and Adelaide to keep his hopes alive.
On the 47th lap, while Senna was chasing Prost for the lead, the two McLaren cars made contact at the chicane. Prost retired, while Senna rejoined and took the chequered flag first, but was later disqualified for cutting the chicane, which crowned Prost champion.
The WTCC Suzuka race will be broadcast in Japan on TV Tokyo and TV Osaka.
Official site: www.fiawtcc.com
Chevrolet Japan: www.chevrolet.co.jp
More images of team Chevrolet: www.flickr.com/tokyoweekender
Images courtesy of Chevrolet/Tokyo Weekender