Event preview: It's go, go, go for Ningbo as WTCR heads to China
A little over two months since the chequered flag waved following Tiago Monteiro’s heroic victory on the streets of Vila Real, the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO is back with a bang at the Ningbo International Speedpark in China from 13-15 September.
The world’s largest car market with more than 12 million models sold, China marks the start of the season-deciding Asian leg of WTCR / OSCARO 2019 with events in Japan, Macau and Malaysia following in October, November and December respectively.
After part one of the season delivered 11 winners and has resulted in a wide-open title battle, the expectations for a thrilling climax to the current campaign are high with all seven car brands appearing on the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID winning races.
Esteban Guerrieri tops the title table for the Honda-powered ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team but his margin over BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse’s Norbert Michelisz is just 24 points with 12 races remaining and a maximum of 340 still to be fought for. Thed Björk, whose Lynk & Co 03 TCR is developed by Geely Group Motorsport from China, is third in standings and firmly in contention for the giant WTCR / OSCARO trophy, as are a number of other rapid racers.
They include Guerrieri’s team-mate and fellow Argentine Néstor Girolami, PWR Racing’s CUPRA-equipped rising star Mikel Azcona, Yvan Muller – the world’s most successful touring car driver – and his 23-year-old nephew Yann Ehrlacher, plus Audi racers Frédéric Vervisch and Jean-Karl Vernay. Gabriele Tarquini, the title holder from 2018, is 10th in the rankings and a winner in 2019.
Will home fans savour some Ma magic?
History maker Ma Qinghua will fly the Chinese flag at WTCR Race of China. After becoming the first Chinese driver to win an FIA world championship motor race in 2014, Ma became the first driver from his country to triumph in WTCR / OSCARO when he won at the Slovakia Ring in May. He partners Kevin Ceccon at Team Mulsanne in an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris.
Lynk & Co-powered racers fly the Chinese flag
Four examples of the Lynk & Co 03 TCR, developed by Geely Group Motorsport from China, will be in action at the Ningbo International Speedpark. Thed Björk and Yvan Muller compete under the Cyan Racing Lynk & Co banner, while Yann Ehrlacher and Andy Priaulx represent Cyan Performance Lynk & Co. Björk, Muller and Priaulx have eight FIA World Touring Car titles between them, while Ehrlacher, Muller’s nephew, is regarded as a future champion.
Rounds: 19-21 of 30
Venue: Ningbo International Speedpark
Date: 13-15 September 2019
Location: Yanhai Middle Road, Chuanxiao, Ningbo, Zhejiang, China
Time zone:GMT +8 hours
Race 1 distance:13 laps (52.130 kilometres)
Race 2 distance:13 laps (52.130 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 16 laps (64.160 kilometres)
WTCR qualifying lap record:
Thed Björk (Hyundai i30 N TCR), 1m50.371s (130.70kph), 30/09/18
WTCR race lap record:
Thed Björk (Hyundai i30 N TCR), 1m51.640s (129.30kph), 30/09/18
A BRIEF HISTORY
Located in Chunxiao in the rapidly-expanding Beilun coastal development near Ningbo – a major port and industrial city with a population of more than seven million – in Zhejiang province, the track opened in time for WTCC Race of China in October 2017 following more than a year of construction work at a cost of 950-million CNY (122 million euros). Around 500 people were involved in turning what was a disused quarry into a state-of-the-art venue, which is built to FIA and FIM Grade 2 standards. It runs in an anti-clockwise direction, is between 12-18 metres in width and features 21 turns.
FIVE NINGBO FACTS
1: Ningbo is one of two tracks on the WTCR / OSCARO calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction. Circuit Moulay El Hassan, venue of WTCR Race of Morocco, is the other.
2: Opening in 2017, it’s the work of Alan Wilson, a designer of more than 20 circuits worldwide.
3: Nine of the 26 drivers contesting WTCR Race of China have no experience of the Ningbo circuit.
4: Ningbo’s 4.010-kilometre layout, which is between 12-18 metres in width, features 21 corners.
5: Thed Björk holds Ningbo’s qualifying and race lap records, standards set driving a Hyundai i30 N TCR in September 2018.
Provisional key timings (all GMT +8 hours and subject to change):
Friday 13 September
Free Practice 1: 17h00-17h45
Saturday 14 September
Free Practice 2: 09h00-09h30
First Qualifying: 11h00-11h30
Autograph session: 12h30-13h20 (Fan Zone behind grandstand)
Race 1: 15h40 (13 laps)
Sunday 15 September
Second Qualifying Q1: 09h00-09h20
Second Qualifying Q2: 09h25-09h35
Second Qualifying Q3: 09h40 (first car starts top five DHL Pole Position shootout)
Autograph session: 10h00-10h15 (Fan Zone behind grandstand)
Race 2: 14h30 (13 laps)
Race 3: 15h50 (16 laps)