WTCC - Argentine Aces Out to Upstage WTCC Title Fighters

10.07.17

WTCC - 2017 Race of Argentina - Preview 

WTCC, Touring Car, Race of Argentina, FIA, Motorsport

RACE PREVIEW: FIA WTCC Race of Argentina, 14-16 July 2017
FIA World Touring Car Championship 2017, Rounds 11 and 12 of 20

*Girolami and Guerrieri bid for Termas de Río Hondo success
*WTCC Super Seven covered by 37 points entering second half of season
*Ex-online racer Szabó revs up for world championship debut

The 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship title race changes up another gear in South America next week when the second half of this wide-open season and enthralling battle for WTCC glory resumes with seven drivers covered by a mere 37 points.

Following his podium double on home soil in Portugal last month, Honda’s Tiago Monteiro tops the standings, albeit a mere four points in front of Thed Björk, who holds a six-point advantage over Nicky CatsburgNorbert MicheliszMehdi BennaniTom Chilton and former champion Rob Huff are firmly in contention with all bar Huff taking at least one victory in 2017.

But it’s not just the prestigious world crown at stake when Termas de Río hosts WTCC Race of Argentina for the fifth time from 14-16 July. Having won in the Santiago del Estero region every year the WTCC has visited, triple champion José María López has chosen the FIA Formula E and World Endurance championships for his next motorsport challenge, paving the way for two of his hugely talented countrymen to forge their glowing reputations in the series.

As a double Súper TC2000 champion, Néstor Girolami needs no introduction and lines up for the factory Volvo team, Polestar Cyan Racing, less than a year after an impressive testing performance in Termas helped him to secure his factory chance.

Esteban Guerrieri set the fastest lap all weekend at WTCC Race of Argentina in 2016, his debut in the series, and won the opening event of this season in Morocco with Campos Racing. Having raced the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel earlier in his career, Guerrieri is highly rated and both he and Girolami will receive rapturous support from the Argentine fans with Girolami desperate for a change of fortune following a frustrating run of results.

“I feel I have the speed to be at the top but I have only had bad luck,” said Girolami. “So you need to be patient, be focused and do your best to help your team. We are fighting for two championships and it’s important I can help my team-mates. But it’s also time to reset, focus on the five races left and try to do my best and be on top in every race because this is my spirit.”

WTCC Race of Argentina features two races – the Opening Race and longer Main Race – and extensive live television coverage around the world on Sunday 16 July.

SZABÓ HANDED WTCC CHANCE WITH ZENGŐ
Zsolt Dávid Szabó
’s impressive performances in the FIA European Touring Car Cup have been rewarded with a step up to the FIA World Touring Car Championship with Zengő Motorsport for WTCC Race of Argentina. Szabó follows Norbert Michelisz, the ex-Zengő driver turned factory Honda contender, as a former online racer to be handed a dream opportunity to race in the WTCC via a stint in the ETCC. He will make his global series debut at Termas de Río Hondo with fellow Zengő Motorsport young hopefuls Ferenc Ficza and Norbert Nagy expected to take it in turns to race the team’s second Honda Civic alongside their fellow Hungarian Dániel NagyAurélien Panis, who has raced for Zengő in the WTCC since the start of the season, is leaving the team to continue his learning year in front-wheel-drive machinery and will race a Honda in the TCR International Series. Szabó, meanwhile, has been on impressive form in his rookie ETCC season, the 21-year-old taking his maiden victory in Vila Real last month after scoring his first podium at the Hungaroring in May in a Zengő-run SEAT. Zengő Motorsport Team Principal Zoltán Zengő said: “Zsolt has impressed us with his pace and potential and ability to learn new tracks and adapt to new situations very quickly. As a team that takes pride from the work it has done in giving opportunities to young talents and nurturing their careers, we are very pleased to give Zsolt this opportunity in the WTCC and excited to watch him progress. It will be tough but there's no better way to learn and he’ll be given all the help possible to aid his transition. While we are committed to running a second car alongside Dániel Nagy for the rest of the season, we are considering giving two of our other young drivers, Ferenc Ficza and Norbert Nagy, the chance to do a WTCC race and we’ll make an announcement on this in due course.”

FROM PORTUGAL TO ARGENTINA VIA GERMANY THANKS TO DHL
WTCC Race of Argentina is the first of five overseas races where all cars and equipment are transported from Europe by a combination of sea and airfreight as part of the championship’s long-standing agreement with DHL, the WTCC’s Official Logistics Partner. Numerous consumables, infrastructure and spare parts were sent to Argentina by sea freight at the end of May. In the early hours of this morning (Friday 7 July), a Boeing 747 containing all World Touring Cars racing in Argentina took off from Frankfurt Hahn in Germany bound for the Argentine capital Buenos Aires. Later today, a Boeing 777 will transport the Volvo V60 Polestar permanent safety car and other spare parts. The 1800-kilometre journey from Buenos Aires to Termas de Río Hondo will be by road in a giant convoy, which is due to arrive in the town by next Wednesday.

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHTS
*Argentina’s fifth WTCC appearance comes at an exciting time for the championship with 37 points covering the leading seven drivers and just four points separating the top two at the halfway stage of the campaign.
*To further underline what is one of the most wide-open seasons for almost a decade, seven drivers have won races driving cars from four different makes, while 10 drivers have led for a lap or more.
*The WTCC Trophy for independent racers is also finely balanced with Rob Huff, Tom Chilton and Mehdi Bennani all in close combat.
*Argentine fans will have two home WTCC racers to cheer with Néstor Girolami and Esteban Guerrieri among the contenders for victory.
*The long-standing and hugely popular Turismo Nacional series tops the support bill at Termas de Río Hondo with six races for the class-based category scheduled over the weekend.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2017
*Factory teams from Honda and Volvo Polestar go up against leading privateer entrants.
*Revamped and compact calendar (10 events only to reduce costs) features return to iconic venues Monza and Macau, a new track in China, plus a mid-July date for WTCC Race of Argentina.
*More points are on offer to the top 10 in the Main Race as follows: 1=30 points; 2=23; 3=19; 4=16; 5=13; 6=10; 7=7; 8=4; 9=2; 10=1).
*WTCC MAC3, the Tour de France-inspired time trial, continues with two more points for winning.
*FIA World Rallycross-style ‘joker’ lap gets world premiere at WTCC Race of Portugal.
*Renewed social media push with several innovations coming during the season.
*Use of 360-degree camera to give viewer the impression they are in-car with the driver.

LATEST DRIVER NEWS
*Zsolt Dávid Szabó replaces Aurélien Panis at Zengő Motorsport for his WTCC debut. The 21-year-old Hungarian steps up to the world championship on the back of winning the second of two ETCC races at Vila Real last month.
*American Kevin Gleason prepared for WTCC Race of Argentina by confirming he will remain Yann Ehrlacher’s team-mate at RC Motorsport for the remainder of the season.
*Thed Björk will be spending time with royalty prior to heading to Argentina. The Polestar Cyan Racing driver is competing alongside Prince Carl Philip in the Falkenberg round of the Swedish GT championship this weekend.
*Esteban Guerrieri knows what it takes to win at Termas de Río Hondo having triumphed at the venue when the Argentine Súper TC2000 series visited in mid-June. After finishing second to Agustin Canapino in the first race of the weekend, Guerrieri went one better in the 60-minute second encounter driving for the Citroën importer team.
*Tom Chilton scored his first Termas win in 2016, one year after team boss Sébastien Loeb triumphed at the track.
*John Filippi also enjoyed plenty of attention in Argentina last season when he started the Opening Race from the reverse-grid pole position in his OSCARO-backed entry.
*Ryo Michigami joins, Ehrlacher, Gleason, Szabó as a Termas de Río Hondo rookie
*Tom Coronel will be back in action in Argentina after his ROAL Motorsport team rebuilt his badly damaged Chevrolet in the short gap following WTCC Race of Portugal in Vila Real.

GIROLAMI GETS HOME WTCC VICTORY BOOST
Néstor Girolami’s hopes of a maiden FIA World Touring Car Championship victory on home soil in Argentina have received a boost with confirmation that his Volvo S60 Polestar will be 20 kilograms lighter than in Portugal last month under the compensation weight system. Designed to equalise car performance in the WTCC, the FIA’s weight ruling uses a lap time-based calculation made following the last two events in Germany and Portugal. The three Volvo S60 Polestar racers in action at Termas de Río Hondo next week will run with 60 kilograms of success ballast, the same amount carried by the Honda Civic WTCC driven by title chasers Tiago Monteiro and Norbert Michelisz, among others. Girolami’s fellow Argentine, Esteban Guerrieri, is another driver to benefit from the latest round of weight adjustments with his Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 running at the base weight of 1100 kilograms. While the LADA Vesta WTCC will also run without compensation weight, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC will continue to run with the maximum 80 kilograms of success ballast. The full compensation weight listing for Argentina is as follows: Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1: 0kg (-20kg); Citroën C-Elysée WTCC: 80kg (no change); Honda Civic WTCC: 60kg (+10kg); LADA Vesta WTCC: 0kg (no change); Volvo S60 Polestar: 60kg (-20kg)

THRILLING CONTEST IN STORE AS eSPORTS WTCC HEADS TO SPA
While the FIA World Touring Car Championship heads to South America for next week’s WTCC Race of Argentina, the online version is remaining in Europe for the latest instalment of the inaugural eSports WTCC multiplayer championship. A virtual Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium is the venue for the fifth round on Sunday evening with the top two drivers – Alexander Dornieden (Impact Racing Team Honda) and Jan Stange (Impact Racing Team Volvo) – covered by seven points. Following pre-qualifying, Dornieden holds the edge over his rival and fellow German having gone fourth quickest with Stange down in P13. Tim Heineman, currently third in the standings, 10 behind countryman Stange, was third quickest. However, an upset could be on the cards after Gergo Baldi gave Volvo its first pre-qualifying triumph of the season, topping the times ahead of fellow Hungarian Volvo driver Dávid Nagy. Baldi won the second race at the Hungaroring earlier in the year to underline his potential. Kevin Leaune was the fastest rookie in P12 with Jonathan Schelstraete the fastest Belgian. Yann Ehrlacher, a regular point-scorer for RC Motorsport in the real WTCC, was unable to match the pace of the leading sim-racers and had to settle for a spot on the Division 2 grid. The eSports WTCC action from the 7.004-kilometre Spa-Francorchamps takes place from 19h00 CET on Sunday 9 July with live coverage on the WTCC Facebook page and YouTube channel. Lewis McGlade and Robert Wiesenmüller will provide expert commentary. For more information on eSports WTCC go to this link.

THEY SAID WHAT?
Néstor Girolami (Polestar Cyan Racing):
 “It was one of my dreams to race in the WTCC in Argentina and it’s really important for me to be close to my fans. It will also be fantastic to share this weekend with my friend Esteban [Guerrieri] and our fans. We have been thinking about this for many years and fighting for it. Now we achieved it we deserve to enjoy the weekend. The last sector at the track is quite technical and people lock a lot the tyres in the last corner. This is one secret we have because we know how to set up the car so we don’t lock the tyres. This is really important and maybe we can take some advantage from this.”

Esteban Guerrieri (Campos Racing): “After such a good qualifying but a disappointing race it was a feeling like it was close but no cigar last year. But I believe things happen for a reason. It was an opportunity to really perform but I couldn’t wrap it up so that was a little bit of a bad feeling. Nevertheless, I got to know the WTCC and made a good impression by being fast. The goal was achieved because what happened in Argentina last year means we are here now. I will really enjoy this year’s race and I hope the people come to support me and also Bebu [Girolami]. I will approach the weekend like I do any other weekend but racing at home will give me an extra boost.”

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?
José María López strengthened his grip on a third FIA World Touring Car Championship title with WTCC Race of Argentina victory number five to surpass illustrious countryman, the late Juan Manual Fangio, in terms of world championship races won. El Maestro scored 27 wins in world championship events during his distinguished career: first place for Citroën driver López in the Main Race at Termas de Río Hondo was victory number 28 for the Argentine, who topped the WTCC standings by 117 points afterwards. “Comparisons are always a bit difficult,” said López. “He’s the greatest we ever had and everything we have in motor racing is because of him, but it’s a nice personal thing.” Despite the high of claiming the DHL pole, there was drama for López when the engine in his C-Elysée had to be replaced overnight, resulting in demotion to the back of the grid for the Opening Race. Undeterred, López charged through to finish fifth with Tom Chilton beating Rob Huff and Yvan Muller to victory. Starting from pole, López trailed the fast-starting Norbert Michelisz in the Main Race before making his move for the lead on lap seven. Michelisz dropped further back following contact with Muller, leaving Tom Coronel and Huff to complete the podium.

TRACK GUIDE IN 100 WORDS
Circuito Termas de Río Hondo has hosted WTCC Race of Argentina for four years running, with national hero and triple champion José María López dominating to the tune of five wins, including his debut WTCC triumph in 2013. With López trying FIA Formula E for size in 2017, the battle for victory will be wide open when the venue hosts the start of the WTCC’s overseas tour in July. Located in Argentina’s Santiago del Estero region, 1800 kilometres north of the capital Buenos Aires, Circuito Termas de Río Hondo stages a MotoGP race each season and also houses a museum.

TRACK ESSENTIALS
Name: 
Circuito Termas de Río Hondo
Location: Avenida Costanera Prolongacíon – Rincón De Atacama, 4220 Termas De Río Hondo, Santiago del Estero, Argentina
Website: www.autodromotermas.com 
Length: 4.806 kilometres
Opening Race distance: 11 laps (52.866km)
Main Race distance: 13 laps (62.478km)
Lap record (qualifying): Esteban Guerrieri (Chevrolet Cruze) 1m42.993s (167.9kph), 06/08/16
Lap record (race): José María López (Citroën C-Elysée), 1m45.899s (163.3kph), 07/08/16
WTCC appearances: 4
Time zone: GMT -3 hours
Sunrise/sunset: 08h08/18h43 (16 July)
Average temperature: 7-20°C (July)

PREVIOUS WINNERS
2016:
 Opening Race: Tom Chilton (Citroën C-Elysée); Main Race: José María López (Citroën)
2015: Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C-Elysée)
2014: R1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); R2: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée)
2013: R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: José María López (BMW 320)

FIVE FACTS
1:
 Circuito Termas de Río Hondo, located in the city of the same name, was built in 2007 but underwent a complete overhaul in 2012 under the gaze of Italian circuit designer Jarno Zaffelli.
2: As well as the WTCC, the circuit has played host to Súper TC2000 touring cars, Formula Renault and MotoGP events.
3: An Argentinian round of the WTCC was originally scheduled to take place at Buenos Aires in 2011, but it was cancelled after problems homologating the track for international use were encountered.
4: Home hero José María López might have been the man to beat in the WTCC in recent years, but Argentina’s most famous racing driver remains Juan Manuel Fangio – winner of five Formula One world championships in 1951 and 1954-57.
5: The hottest and coldest temperatures in South America have been recorded in Argentina. On 6 June 1907, Sarmiento in Patagonia recorded a temperature of minus 32.8 degrees centigrade. Thirteen years later, Villa de Maria in Córdoba experienced the highest recorded temperature at 49.1 degrees centigrade.

MEDIA INFORMATION
Event press officer:
 Juan Cruz Mathus, [email protected]+54 93516781332
Media Accreditation Centre location: The Media Accreditation Centre is located at the roundabout on the approach to the circuit entrance and open as follows: Friday 14 July, 09h00-18h00; Saturday 15 July, 07h00-18h00; Sunday 16 July, 08h00-12h00 Media centre location/opening times: The Media Centre is located on the first floor of the main pit complex and open as follows: Friday 14 July, 09h00-20h00; Saturday 15 July, 07h00-20h00; Sunday 16 July, 08h00-until the last journalist leaves.

MEDIA DIARY
Friday 14 July:
 17h30-18h30: WTCC Happy Hour. By invitation only. Please email [email protected] to register your interest in attending. Saturday 15 July: 16h35 (approx.): Post-qualifying/WTCC MAC3 press conference (Briefing Room adjacent to Media Centre) Sunday 16 July: 11h00-11h30: Autograph session (pitlane); 15h35: Opening Race podium; 16h55: Main Race podium; 17h05 (approx.): Post-race press conference (Briefing Room adjacent to Media Centre).

TRACK DIARY
Saturday 15 July:
 08h30-09h15: Free Practice 1; 10h50-11h35: Free Practice 2; 15h00-15h20: Qualifying Q1; 15h25-15h35: Qualifying Q2; 15h45 (pit lane opens for first car): Qualifying Q3; 16h15-16h30: WTCC MAC3 Sunday 16 July:15h00-15h25: Opening Race (11 laps); 16h15-16h45: Main Race (13 laps).

Timings/activities above provisional and subject to change. Additional activities may be arranged.

ONLINE MEDIA CENTRE
The new online Media Centre is a one-stop-shop for media professionals covering the WTCC. The site contains a press release archive, downloadable press kit, event guides, Q&As, high-resolution rights-free images, driver profiles, statistics, results, track maps, logos, accreditation details and much more. Visit http://media.fiawtcc.com for details.

PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AND STATISTICS
Drivers (after round 10 of 20): 
1 Monteiro 164; 2 Björk 160; 3 Catsburg 154; 4 Michelisz 137; 5 Bennani 133; etc.
Manufacturers (10/20): 1 Volvo Polestar 494; 2 Honda 466
WTCC Trophy (10/20): 1 Huff 79; 2 Chilton 75; 3 Bennani 71; 4 Guerrieri 52; 5 Coronel 35; etc.
WTCC Teams (10/20): 1 SLR 92; 2 Münnich 72; 3 Campos 57; 4 RC 44; 5 ROAL 43; etc.
All-time race wins (top 5): Y Muller 48; López 29; Huff 28; Menu 23; Tarquini 22
All-time pole positions (top 5): Y Muller 29; López 21; Tarquini 17; Menu 15; Huff 12; Farfus 11
All-time fastest laps (top 5): Y Muller 38; Huff and López 29; Tarquini 24; Menu 20
All-time laps led (top 5): Y Muller 571; Huff 345; López 301; Menu 297; Tarquini 295

ENTRY LIST

#

Team

Driver (Nationality)

Car

3

Sébastien Loeb Racing

Tom Chilton (GBR) T

Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 

5

Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team

Norbert Michelisz (HUN)

Honda Civic WTCC

9

ROAL Motorsport

Tom Coronel (NLD) T

Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1

12

ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport

Rob Huff (GBR) T

Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 

18

Castrol Honda World Touring Car Team

Tiago Monteiro (PRT)

Honda Civic WTCC

24

RC Motorsport

Kevin Gleason (USA) T

LADA Vesta WTCC

25

Sébastien Loeb Racing

Mehdi Bennani (MAR) T

Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 

27

Sébastien Loeb Racing

John Filippi (FRA) T

Citroën C-Elysée WTCC 

34

Honda Racing Team JAS

Ryo Michigami (JPN)

Honda Civic WTCC

61

Polestar Cyan Racing

Néstor Girolami (ARG)

Volvo S60 Polestar

62

Polestar Cyan Racing

Thed Björk (SWE)

Volvo S60 Polestar

63

Polestar Cyan Racing

Nicky Catsburg (NLD)

Volvo S60 Polestar

66

Zengő Motorsport

Zsolt Dávid Szabó (HUN) T

Honda Civic WTCC

68

RC Motorsport

Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) T

LADA Vesta WTCC

86

Campos Racing

Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) T

Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1

99

Zengő Motorsport

Dániel Nagy (HUN) T

Honda Civic WTCC

(T = Indicates WTCC Trophy contender)