No lifting off November event preview: WTCR night drivers ready to race between the walls in Saudi Arabia

2022-11-20T23:25:49+01:00November 21st, 2022|2022, WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia 2022|

The race for the 2022 WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup Drivers’ and Teams’ titles reaches its climax in Saudi Arabia this week (November 25-27) when the final chequered flag will be waved on the all-action series after five seasons and 108 races.

With a 60-point advantage in his bid to be crowned King of WTCR, Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Mikel Azcona is preparing to head to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in the knowledge that it’s very much his title to lose following a standout campaign in his BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Elantra N TCR.

Indeed, the third fastest time in Qualifying will be enough to make him the first Spaniard and the third BRC-run driver to win the coveted title, regardless of how Néstor Girolami − his closest rival – performs aboard his ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda Civic Type R TCR.

“WTCR Race of Bahrain was fantastic, a very good weekend for us,” said Azcona. “This is a very important moment of my career and I know I can achieve a great result. My goal is to win the world title and I will do everything possible to get this.”

Girolami, a two-time winner in 2022, said: “The title looks very hard now but it’s not finished, so we’ll be in maximum attack for Jeddah and see where that leaves us.”

While Azcona, 26, is in the title ascendency after 16 rounds, the chase for second and third in the final WTCR standings remains wide open. Of those preparing for battle on the newly completed Short Track at the spectacular Red Sea venue, four can still finish runner-up, while third place is between five drivers.

The inaugural WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia, which marks the first world-level touring car race to take place in the country, represents unchartered territory for all drivers with the 3.450-kilometre Jeddah Corniche Circuit’s Short Track never previously used in competition.

The Short Track essentially takes drivers from the exit of Turn 3 towards the Turn 4 left-hand corner. But instead of continuing to Turn 5 on the Full Track, drivers dive right and head through to a sweeping hairpin turn, before accelerating towards Turn 6 and then onto the left-hander at Turn 7.

Norbert Michelisz, the 2019 King of WTCR and the winner of Race 2 at WTCR Race of Bahrain last weekend, said: “I don’t have a clue about the circuit. I was watching some Formula One races [on the Full Track] and usually street circuits are good for us. I really like them, but Jeddah will be a completely new challenge.”

Esteban Guerrieri, who starts WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia as a 10-time winner in the series, which remains a record, said: “It’s a short track and let’s see how hot it is, how dirty the track is in the beginning and how it evolves during the weekend. To be honest I have to be learning while going on but we’ll go there and give it everything.”

Following Qualifying from 18h30 local time on Saturday November 26, Race 1 is set to start at 19h45 on Sunday November 27 and is scheduled to thrill fans for 30 minutes plus one lap. Race 2 is due to begin at 22h15 with drivers in action for 25 minutes plus one lap. The event will be broadcast live on the Eurosport platform, including Eurosport Player, and on other networks around the world.

WTCR RACE OF SAUDI ARABIA ESSENTIALS

Rounds: 17 and 18 of 18
Date: November 25-27
Venue: Jeddah Corniche Circuit
Location: Jeddah Corniche, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Length: 3.450 kilometres
Race 1 distance: 30 minutes + 1 lap
Race 2 distance: 25 minutes + 1 lap
WTCR lap record (qualifying):
To be established
WTCR lap record (race):
To be established

In 100 words:  The WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup’s maiden visit to Saudi Arabia brings international touring car action to the country for the first time for an exciting pair of night races promoted by Saudi Motorsport Company. WTCR will be the first series to use Jeddah Corniche Circuit’s alternative 3.450-kilometre track, which has been selected due to its design being tailor-made for bumper-to-bumper, doorhandle-to-doorhandle FIA World Touring Car racing and homologated especially for the occasion. Saudi Arabia is becoming established as a motorsport destination with FIA Formula One, Formula E and World Rally-Raid Championship events also taking place in the country.

Timetable:
Friday November 25
19h30-20h30: Testing

Saturday November 26
13h00-13h45: Free Practice 1
16h00-16h30: Free Practice 2
18h30-19h00: Qualifying Q1 (Live on Eurosport Player, Eurosport 1, and other broadcasters around the world)
19h05-19h20: Qualifying Q2 (Live on Eurosport Player, Eurosport 1, and other broadcasters around the world)
19h30-19h45: Qualifying Q3 (Live on Eurosport Player, Eurosport 1, and other broadcasters around the world)

Sunday November 27
19h45: Race 1 (30 minutes+1 lap) (Live on Eurosport Player, Eurosport 1 and other broadcasters around the world)
20h30 (approx.): Race 1 podium
22h15: Race 2 (25 minutes+1 lap) (Live on Eurosport Player, Eurosport 2 and other broadcasters around the world)
22h50 (approx.): Race 2 podium

Provisional entry list
#5 Norbert Michelisz (HUN) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR
#9 Attila Tasi (HUN) LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler, Honda Civic Type R TCR
#16 Gilles Magnus (BEL) Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS
#17 Nathanaël Berthon (FRA) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS
#18 Tiago Monteiro (PRT) LIQUI MOLY Team Engstler, Honda Civic Type R TCR
#24 Ahmed Bin Khanen (SAU), Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS*
#29 Néstor Girolami (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR
#33 Tom Coronel (NLD) Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, Audi RS 3 LMS
#72 Franco Girolami (ARG) Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS
#79 Rob Huff (GBR) Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición
#86 Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, Honda Civic Type R TCR
#88 Nicky Catsburg (NLD) BRC Hyundai N Racing Team, Hyundai Elantra N TCR*
#96 Mikel Azcona (ESP) BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, Hyundai Elantra N TCR
#99 Dániel Nagy (HUN) Zengő Motorsport, CUPRA Leon Competición
#110 Viktor Davidovski (MKD) Comtoyou Racing, Audi RS 3 LMS*
*Race-by-race entry

INTRODUCING THE WTCR − FIA WORLD TOURING CAR CUP
The WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup has been at the pinnacle of customer touring car racing since 2018 and sits at the top of the TCR category ladder, with WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia marking the the series’ two-event tour of the Middle East following the recent WTCR Race of Bahrain.

Evolving from the FIA World Touring Car Championship, WTCR is administered by the FIA and promoted by Discovery Sports Events. Experienced racers and young talents aiming for the top compete in turbocharged TCR cars from Audi, CUPRA, Honda and Hyundai. A Balance of Performance formula, sustainable biofuel from P1 Racing Fuels and tyres from Goodyear provide a level playing field. Power is capped at 360bhp, while speeds reach 260kph. Cost-control measures allow privateer teams with limited technical support from manufacturers to fight at the front.

Two practice sessions, a single three-stage qualifying session featuring two elimination periods, plus two sprint races are timetabled at all events, which enjoy extensive live global broadcasting. As well as the FIA Drivers’ and Teams’ titles, independent racers with no direct financial backing from a manufacturer are eligible for the WTCR Trophy.

The Goodyear #FollowTheLeader recognises the driver at the head of the title standings after each qualifying session or race. They are presented with the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader jacket and carry the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader yellow windscreen strip on their car until such time that they no longer top the points classification.

QUALIFYING EXPLAINED
Q1 runs for 30 minutes with the fastest 12 progressing to Q2. There’s just 15 minutes for drivers to battle for one of five places in the one-at-time Q3 shootout, where drivers get one flying lap in their pursuit of pole position. The fastest five in Qualifying, regardless of at what point they set their best lap or whether they progress to Q3 or not, are rewarded with points on a 10-8-6-4-2 scale.

HOW GRIDS ARE FORMED
The Race 1 starting grid is determined by the results of Q3 (positions 1-5) and Q2 (positions 6-12) for the top 12 grid positions. The results from Q1 decide the remainder of the grid for Race 1, which lasts for 30 minutes plus one lap. For Race 2, grid positions 1-10 are occupied by the first 10 cars according to the final combined qualifying results but in reverse order, so the driver in P10 after Qualifying starts in pole position with the ninth fastest starting second and so on.  Positions 11 and 12 are occupied by the cars from Q2 that are not in reverse order. The remainder of the grid is decided by the results of Q1 from positions 13 downwards. Race 2 runs for 25 minutes plus one lap.

POINTS ALLOCATION EXPLAINED
In Race 1 drivers score points as follows: 1st = 30 points; 2nd = 23; 3rd = 19; 4th = 16; 5th = 14; 6th = 12; 7th = 10; 8th = 8; 9th = 7; 10th = 6; 11th = 5; 12th = 4; 13th = 3; 14th = 2; 15th = 1. Race 2 points ae scored as follows: 1st = 25 points; 2nd = 20; 3rd = 16; 4th = 13; 5th = 11; 6th = 10; 7th = 9; 8th = 8; 9th = 7; 10th = 6; 11th = 5; 12th = 4; 13th = 3; 14th = 2; 15th = 1. The fastest WTCR Trophydriver in Qualifying receives one point. Race points are allocated as follows: 1st = 10 points; 2nd = 8; 3rd: 5; 4th: 3; 5th: 1; Fastest lap: 1

COMPENSATION WEIGHT RULES EXPLAINED
The Compensation Weight rules have been revised and simplified for 2022. All cars will carry zero kilograms of Compensation Weight at the first event of the season. For the second event the Compensation Weight for each model will be based on the best Qualifying time set during the previous event. From the third event the Compensation Weight will be based on the best Qualifying time set during either of the previous two events, rather than an average of the best two lap times out of three events, which was the case in 2021. It will mean the Compensation Weight will be quicker to update and therefore more responsive.  In addition, the maximum Compensation Weight has been reduced from 60 to 40 kilograms to avoid significant contrasting performances from race to race and therefore make the performance levels of each brand even closer. The same Compensation Weight principles apply to race-by-race entries.

DID YOU KNOW?
*The WTCR is 106 races old following Race 2 at WTCR Race of Bahrain. Two drivers, Tom Coronel and Esteban Guerrieri, have made 105 starts, while Norbert Michelisz has started 104 times.
*Esteban Guerrieri is the WTCR’s most successful driver in terms of race wins with the Honda-powered racer triumphing 10 times for ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport.
*Since the WTCR began in 2018 Gabriele Tarquini (once), Norbert Michelisz (once) and Yann Ehrlacher (twice) have taken the Drivers’ titles.
*WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia is the second WTCR event to take place in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia the 18th county to host the series.
*None of the drivers competing at WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia have sampled the all-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit’s Short Track in competition.
*The state-of-the-art venue on the banks of the Red Sea, which opened in 2021 and hosts Saudi Arabia’s Formula One Grand Prix, is the 23rd to stage the all-action WTCR.
*Fourteen nationalities will have been represented in the WTCR this season with a further two represented by teams and two more by manufacturers to underline the WTCR’s global appeal.
*Ahmed Bin Khanen will become the first driver from the Middle East to race in WTCR, although Mehdi Bennani was the series’ first Arabic driver having made his WTCR debut in 2018.
*Dániel Nagy is the only all-season WTCR racer yet to take a WTCR race victory although he has finished second on one occasion and led at WTCR Race of Spain in June.
*The Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition is the Official Safety Car of the WTCR for a third season. Pedro Couceiro from Portugal is on driving duty at WTCR Race of Saudi Arabia.

HOW THEY STAND?

WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Drivers provisional standings after 16 rounds:
Goodyear #FollowTheLeader: Mikel Azcona, 297 points
2 Néstor Girolami, 237 points
3 Nathanaël Berthon, 200 points
4 Rob Huff, 187 points
5 Norbert Michelisz, 179 points

WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for Teams provisional standings after 16 rounds:
1 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, 476 points
2 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport, 372 points
3 Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport, 283 points
4 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport, 277 points
5 Zengő Motorsport, 251 points

WTCR Trophy provisional standings after 16 rounds:
1 Rob Huff, 124 points
2 Mehdi Bennani, 91 points
3 Tom Coronel, 87 points
4 Dániel Nagy, 46 points
5 Bence Boldizs, 7 points

Click HERE to view the full provisional standings