Event preview: WTCR / OSCARO racers ready to feast on East
With nine races remaining and a whopping 1350 points still to fight for, the battle to win the 2019 WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO will shift up another gear when the Suzuka Circuit East Course hosts WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan from 25-27 October.
A new layout for the bulk of the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID, the 2.243-kilometre track is the shortest on the WTCR / OSCARO schedule but is expected to deliver non-stop action and entertainment for the fans in the grandstands and for the viewers watching live coverage around the world.
Following last month’s WTCR Race of China, WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan is the second stop on the season-deciding tour of Asia that also includes visits to Macau and Malaysia. And it will be at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit from 13-15 December where the WTCR / OSCARO super-finale will take place as part of the inaugural Races of Malaysia double-header event, which features WTCR Race of Malaysia and the 8 Hours of Sepang FIM Endurance World Championship race for motorbikes.
With 21 races run, Norbert Michelisz from Hungary tops the title table for BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse, albeit by a slender 15 points over Argentine Esteban Guerrieri, who lines up for the Honda-powered ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport squad. After his record points haul in China, where a win double made him the TAG Heuer Most Valuable Driver, French FIA World Touring Car legend Yvan Muller is also firmly in the title chase, just one point behind Guerrieri for Cyan Racing Lynk & Co. But with a maximum of 85 points up for grabs at each of the remaining three race events, the battle for the crown is wide open heading to Honda’s home track.
Circuit switch means Coronel’s old favourite returns
The decision to switch from the planned Suzuka Circuit Full Course layout to the East Course respects the FIA’s safety requirements and was taken jointly by circuit operator and event promoter Mobilityland and WTCR / OSCARO promoter Eurosport Events.
This is because large sections of the Full Course are lined with urethane safety barriers. While these are mandatory for FIM-sanctioned motorbike events, they do not conform to the circuit’s stringent FIA homologation for car racing. Because there is not enough time to remove the urethane barriers in place around the Full Course before the WTCR / OSCARO event and then reinstall them afterwards due to other circuit-based activities, the significantly shorter East Course will be used instead.
But as Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing driver Tom Coronel has been quick to point out, a great show is in store in the three races that make up the WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan weekend, that combines with the Super Formula finale to form the 4 & 4 Races event.
“I won at the East Course in 2011 and 2013 so I have good memories,” said the Dutchman. “It’s a good track for the show and that’s part of what we do. The layout is a good style for the fans. When I won in 2013, Mehdi Bennani was leading but I overtook him in Turn 2 by approaching the attack in Turn 1 and teasing him. The last corner, which is uphill to the right, is also quite interesting. Unlike the other medium-speed corners, there’s a type of swing and if somebody makes a mistake you can overtake them.”
Alternative weekend timetable explained
WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan runs to a slightly different format than other WTCR events with First Qualifying and Second Qualifying on the same day, Friday 25 October, leaving Saturday and Sunday purely for racing. Race 1 (24 laps, 53.832 kilometres) provides the entertainment on 26 October with Race 2 (also 24 laps, 53.832 kilometres) and Race 3 (28 laps, 62.804 kilometres) delivering the action on 27 October. The 4 & 4 Races event is also headlined by the Super Formula finale, Japan’s premier single-seater category. Click here to view the timetable.
Audi-powered Miyata and Tomita get wildcard entries for home race
Local racers Ritomo Miyata and Ryuichiro Tomita will fly the Japanese flag when the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO visits their country. Miyata, 20, and Tomita, 30, have secured wildcard entries and will both drive an Audi RS 3 LMS under the Audi Team Hitotsuyama banner and their progress will be closely followed by the thousands of local fans expected at Suzuka.
Jim Ka To set for WTCR / OSCARO debut in KC Motorgroup Honda
Hong Kong driver Jim Ka To is gearing up for his debut in the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO in a Honda Civic Type R TCR entered under the KC Motorgroup banner. KC Motorgroup owns and operates the Honda-powered KCMG WTCR / OSCARO team which has guided Tiago Monteiro to a race win and team-mate Attila Tassi to a DHL Pole Position this season.
WTCR hero Monteiro’s racing returned revisited
Tiago Monteiro made a heroic – and hugely emotional – return to racing at Suzuka on 26 October 2018 after 415 days of fighting to recover from the serious head and neck injuries sustained in a testing crash that could so easily have ended his career. In highly-charged scenes at WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan, drivers from the WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO formed a guard of honour in the Suzuka pit lane. They then watched Monteiro take to the track for Free Practice 1 before following the Portuguese on to the circuit. Click here to relive the moment and view the video.
Twenty-one races, 12 winners and a tightly-poised WTCR title tussle
Twelve drivers have won races in 2019, while all seven customer racing brands have celebrated race victories to underline another hugely competitive WTCR / OSCARO season. Click here to view the provisional 2019 standings.
All you need to know about WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan
Rounds: 22-24 of 30
Venue: Suzuka Circuit East Course
Date: 25-27 October 2019
Location: 7992 Ino-Cho, Suzuka-shi, Mie-ken 510-0295, Japan
Length: 2.243 kilometres
Time zone: GMT +9 hours
Race 1 distance: 24 laps (53.832 kilometres)
Race 2 distance: 24 laps (53.832 kilometres)
Race 3 distance: 28 laps (62.804 kilometres)
East Course WTCR qualifying lap record:
To be established
East Course WTCR race lap record:
To be established
Used for Japan’s WTCC counter between 2011 and 2013, the 2.243-kilometre East Course layout features the legendary First Turn – a classic down-hill right-hander. It also includes the S Corner sweeps and a section of the Dunlop Corner before it swings sharp right onto the iconic start/finish straight. Using the East Course respects the FIA’s safety and circuit homologation requirements, which don’t allow urethane safety barriers. Because there is not enough time to remove and reinstall these barriers that are in place on the Full Course before and after WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan the East Course is being used instead.
FIVE SUZUKA FACTS
1: Designed by John Hugenholtz – who also penned Circuit Zandvoort – Suzuka initially opened as a Honda test track in 1962 and staged its first Japanese Grand Prix in 1987.
2: Gabriele Tarquini, who was also born in 1962 and won the inaugural WTCR / OSCARO title in 2018, tried but failed to qualify for his first Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in 1988.
3: Suzuka Circuit’s East Course hosted WTCC Race of Japan on three occasions. Current WTCR / OSCARO racers Tom Coronel (two times) and Norbert Michelisz (once) won on the shorter layout.
4: At 2.243 kilometres, the Suzuka East Course beats Circuit Moulay El Hassan in Marrakech as the shortest track on the WTCR / OSCARO schedule. The Moroccan venue measures 2.971 kilometres in length.
5: Wildcard racers Ritomo Miyata and Ryuichiro Tomita will become the first drivers from Japan to race in WTCR / OSCARO when they compete at Suzuka from 25-27 October.
PROVISIONAL KEY TIMINGS*
Friday 25 October
Free Practice 1: 08h30-09h15
Free Practice 2: 10h15-10h45
First Qualifying: 13h00-13h30
Second Qualifying Q1: 15h30-15h50
Second Qualifying Q2: 15h55-16h05
Second Qualifying Q3: 16h15 (first car starts top five DHL Pole Position shootout)
Saturday 26 October
Race 1: 15h05 (24 laps)
Sunday 27 October
Race 2: 10h00 (24 laps)
Race 2 podium: 10h30
Race 3: 11h30 (28 laps)
Race 3 podium: 12h00
Autograph session: 12h10-12h50 (pitlane)
*All timings are local (GMT +9 hours) and subject to change
ALL-SEASON ENTRY LIST (all drivers use Yokohama tyres as standard)
1 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Gabriele Tarquini (ITA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
5 BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse Norbert Michelisz (HUN) Hyundai i30 N TCR
8 BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Augusto Farfus (BRA) Hyundai i30 N TCR
9 KCMG Attila Tassi (HUN) Honda Civic Type R TCR
10 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Niels Langeveld (NLD) Audi RS 3 LMS
11 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Thed Björk (SWE) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
12 SLR VW Motorsport Rob Huff (GBR) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
14 SLR Volkswagen Johan Kristoffersson (SWE) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
18 KCMG Tiago Monteiro (PRT) Honda Civic Type R TCR
21 Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing Aurélien Panis (FRA) CUPRA TCR
22 Comtoyou Team Audi Sport Frédéric Vervisch (BEL) Audi RS 3 LMS
25 SLR VW Motorsport Mehdi Bennani (MAR) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
29 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Néstor Girolami (ARG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
31 Team Mulsanne Kevin Ceccon (ITA) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris
33 SLR Volkswagen Benjamin Leuchter (DEU) Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR
37 PWR Racing Daniel Haglöf (SWE) CUPRA TCR
50 Comtoyou DHL Team CUPRA Racing Tom Coronel (NLD) CUPRA TCR
52 Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Gordon Shedden (GBR) Audi RS 3 LMS
55 Team Mulsanne Ma Qinghua (CHN) Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR by Romeo Ferraris
68 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Yann Ehrlacher (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
69 Leopard Racing Team Audi Sport Jean-Karl Vernay (FRA) Audi RS 3 LMS
86 ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Esteban Guerrieri (ARG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
88 BRC Hyundai N LUKOIL Racing Team Nicky Catsburg (NLD) Hyundai i30 N TCR
96 PWR Racing Mikel Azcona (ESP) CUPRA TCR
100 Cyan Racing Lynk & Co Yvan Muller (FRA) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
111 Cyan Performance Lynk & Co Andy Priaulx (GBR) Lynk & Co 03 TCR
WTCR JVCKENWOOD Race of Japan wildcards
7 Audi Team Hitotsuyama Ryuichiro Tomita (JPN) Audi RS 3 LMS
19 KC Motorgroup Jim Ka To (HKG) Honda Civic Type R TCR
77 Audi Team Hitotsuyama Ritomo Miyata (JPN) Audi RS 3 LMS