This weekend (2nd – 4th September) sees the World Touring Car Championship roll into the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan. It has been little over a month since the cars turned a wheel in anger in Argentina and the teams have been using that time well.
Volvo now has a third test car up and running in Sweden, which should help the manufacture press on with the development it so badly needs. “The race cars have not been in Sweden since the first race in April, meaning that no development work has been possible” said Christan Dahl, CEO of Cyan Racing. “The test car changes that and we look forward to work further with the new data from the coming tests.” Both factory drivers Thed Bjork and Robert Dahlgren have clocked up miles in the car at Mantorp park in Sweden.
There have been further changes at Volvo, as they bring in Nestor Griolami to replace Robert Dahlgren for the remaining rounds of the series. Griolami had a short test in the car in Argentina after the last round, but is no stranger to the TC1 touring cars, having competed in two rounds last season. He is also used to sparing with Jose Maria Lopez, after competing with him in the TC2000 series in Argentina.
Honda have also been out testing, they are bringing Ryo Michigami to add to their three factory cars. The 43-year-old has been racing for Honda since 1998 in Super GT and the Japanese touring car championship, he also had a hand in developing the Civic Type R. He will be the only Japanese driver on the grid at his home race, and will surely want to do well to please the Japanese fans. Another driver hoping to impress is Rob Huff, who wants to win in front of his team’s home crowd.
This will be difficult, after the Hondas were awarded the maximum 80kg of success ballast for this round, the same for the Citroens. The Ladas will be carrying 50kg, the Chevrolets 10kg and the Volvos will run on the minimum weight of 1100kg.
In other news, there are doubts as to whether the round in Thailand will take place in November. The Tai ASN has recently changed management, and it is believed that interest in hosting the race has all but dried up. A deal was signed early in 2015 for the Bruiram Circuit to host the TCR international series, before the WTCC offer arrived. As a result, the ASN is unable to offer any funding for the event, which means it may be cancelled. A confirmation is due from the World Motorsport Council (WMSC) as to whether the race will take place.
As a result, Motegi could be the championship deciding round. Jose Maria Lopez currently has a 117-point advantage over his nearest rival, Honda’s Tiago Monteiro. If the Tai race is cancelled, there will be just 110 points available after the races in Japan (55 per round). Therefore, if Lopez can avoid scoring 7 less points that Monteiro, then he will more than likely be the 2016 World Touring Car Champion.