The WTCR circuits of 2018
Nine venues have so far been included on the provisional FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) schedule for 2018. Here’s a short summary of each one.
Circuit Moulay El Hassan (Marrakech), 7-8 April:Transformed from street circuit to semi-permanent race track for 2016, Circuit Moulay El Hassan is located in the heart of Marrakech’s bustling hotel district. Built to FIA Grade II standards, the layout is the work of Hermann Tilke’s renowned architecture agency and offers impressive views of the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech city wall. But with a compact lap of 2.971 kilometres (down from 4.545km) and a sprinkling of tight, wall-lined turns, there will be no time for WTCR drivers to take in the scenery when the venue opens the 2018 season. Morocco’s top racer, Mehdi Bennani, attracts a fervent following.
Hungaroring, 28-29 April:Located less than 20 kilometres northeast of Budapest, the Hungaroring is famed for hosting the first Formula One grand prix behind the old Iron Curtain in 1986. Ever-present on the F1 calendar since, the Hungaroring has also become a popular venue for world touring car racing, particularly since the emergence of Norbert Michelisz as a local hero and especially following his pole-to-flag victory in 2015. Resurfaced for 2016 with re-profiled kerbing to boot, the track blends tight turns and fast sweeps while its valley location makes for an initial descent before a climb back up to the high-speed Turn 4.
Nürburgring Nordschleife, 10-12 May:Germany’s WTCR host venue offers a challenge like no other with its daunting 25.378-kilometre lap, 64 heart-stopping corners and changeable Eifel mountains weather. Opening for business in 1927 and a German Grand Prix regular until Niki Lauda’s near-fatal accident in 1976, the Nürburgring Nordschleife joined the FIA World Touring Car Championship schedule from 2015-2017 as part of the ADAC Zurich 24h Rennen weekend. It delivered plenty of drama and several standout performances by José María López, a double winner in 2016 when drivers from the European Touring Car Cup joined their WTCC counterparts on track, albeit from a split grid.
Circuit Zandvoort, 19-21 May:The most northerly venue on the 2018 calendar, the inclusion of Zandvoort on the WTCR roster for an unofficial festival of TCR action, brings world touring racing back to The Netherlands for the first time since 2007. And the timing of the race couldn’t be more appropriate with 2018 marking the circuit’s 70thanniversary. Once home to the Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort’s motorsport roots go back to 1939 when a street race was organised in the seaside town. It was the catalyst needed for the mayor to invest in a permanent track, construction of which began following World War II.
Circuito Internacional de Vila Real, 23-24 June:A circuit oozing history and intrigue, racing has been held on the hillside roads of Vila Real since 1931, when Gaspar Sameiro and Ercilio Barbosa conquered the original 7.150-kilometre course in a Ford Model A. Safety and financial factors meant races were held on an irregular basis until the WTCC’s arrival in 2015 provided stability and Vila Real’s first world championship-level race meeting. The 4.785-kilometre layout now used is a challenging blend of turns, climbs and descents. While a handful of chicanes were installed for safety reasons, the spectacle remains unaltered with speeds nearing 240kph on the final downhill section.
CircuitoTermas de Río Hondo, 4-5 August:Circuito Termas de Río Hondo, situated close to 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. Having staged Argentina’s WTCC counter for five seasons (home hero José María López claimed the same number of wins), the track, which will welcome WTCR in early August, is big on speed and overtaking opportunities. 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.
Ningbo International Speedpark, 29-30 September: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 22 turns.
Suzuka International Racing Course, 27-28 October:Japan has hosted world touring car racing since 2008 and 2018 will be no different with the inaugural FIA World Touring Car Cup heading to Suzuka in late October when the country’s Super Formula series finale will also join the bill. Operated by Mobilityland, the same Honda-owned subsidiary behind Twin Ring Motegi – venue of WTCC Race of Japan for three seasons – Suzuka features a unique figure- of-eight layout and presents a considerable challenge for drivers thanks to its huge variety of corners. Opened initially as a Honda test track in 1962, Suzuka staged its first Japanese Grand Prix in 1987.
Circuito da Guia (Macau, pictured, 15-18 November):Macau’s 6.120-kilometre Circuito da Guia blends twisty turns and narrow blasts with long, wide-open straights and sweeping corners – plus gradient changes – to create one of the most challenging and spectacular street circuits on the planet. Touring car racing has been held in this Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China for more than half a century, with the famous Guia Race first run in 1972. Having welcomed the WTCC back to its streets last November for the penultimate event of the 2017 campaign when Rob Huff bagged a record ninth win, Macau hosts the inaugural WTCR season finale.
An additional event will be added on either 21-22 July or 6-7 October subject to approval.