A season of racing gets underway in Monza

This weekend, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza will play host to the start of the 2013 WTCC, ETCC, and F3 championships.

Few race tracks are as evocative as Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza, the pista magica known for its parkland setting, the legendary Parabolica, and the legions of passionate fans who fill its grandstands throughout the racing season.

While Formula One fans know Monza in early autumn, with its dusky pink light and falling leaves, recent weeks of cold weather across Europe have seen Lesmos covered in a light dusting of snow. The snow has since melted, but the contenders for the World Touring Car Championship, the European Touring Car Cup, and Formula Three will scorn tee-shirts, grateful for their long-sleeved race suits and fire-proofed under clothes.

The beginning of the 2013 FIA WTCC season will see twenty-five cars lining up on the grid at Monza, with fifteen teams representing five manufacturers: BMW, Chevrolet, Honda, LADA, and SEAT. Defending drivers’ champion Rob Huff will be making his debut for SEAT-powered Münnich Motorsport after eight seasons with Chevrolet.

“It is very rewarding for the FIA to see that the WTCC has attracted such a field and the interest of important car manufacturers,” said FIA President Jean Todt. “Quantity and quality are both there, meaning that we should expect exciting races and a close fight for the title. This success is the best evidence that the joint effort put in by the FIA and championship promoter Eurosport Events is actually paying off.”

The ETCC field is even larger, with thirty-six cars currently being prepared for the season-opening race. On the grid will be two famous surnames: Nicolas Hamilton, brother of F1 driver Lewis, has moved up to the ETCC for 2013, while Jodi Oriola, brother of WTCC rising star Pepe will also be making his ETCC debut. Both Hamilton and Oriola will be driving for SEAT, with the Briton representing Baporo Motorsport in the Super 2000 class and the Spaniard taking part in the Single-Makes Trophy for the Tuenti Racing Team.

New this season in the ETCC is the Lady’s Trophy Cup, an opportunity for the best-placed female finisher in either of the three racing categories to take home €10,000 in prize money. Three women will be taking part in the ETCC this season, with the experienced Ulrike Krafft fighting rookies Andrina Gugger and Ksenya Niks for the Lady’s Trophy Cup.

Last but not least, the rebooted Formula Three Championship will also be starting its season at Italy’s most famous circuit. The F3 drivers’ champion will win a test with Scuderia Ferrari at the end of the year, giving one talented young driver a taste of life behind the wheel of an F1 car.

The streamlining of F3 follows Gerhard Berger’s efforts to consolidate the single-seater career ladder, making it easier for the best and the brightest to fight their way into Formula One. “When we took the decision to get the Formula 3 European Championship up and running again, we had a single aim in mind: to give the best rising talents the opportunity to shine,” Berger explained.