Race preview: Stakes high as Mighty Macau revs up for WTCR OSCARO season showdown
Seven drivers will hope they hold the trump card when the inaugural WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup presented by OSCARO heads for a season showdown to savour in Macau – the gambling capital of the world – from 15-18 November.
Gabriele Tarquinitops the pack after 27 all-action races in his BRC Racing Team Hyundai i30 N TCR. But with 79 points covering the top seven and 87 up for grabs from the three counters that make up the Suncity Group Guia Race, the order is likely to be shuffled on a track that has provided the ultimate street-racing challenge for 65 years.
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 demanding 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 WTCR OSCARO season finale with a season-high 31 drivers – representing seven customer racing brands – taking part.
Seven up for #SeasonShowdown
While Gabriele Tarquini is in the title ascendancy with a 39-point advantage over fellow Hyundai racerYvan Muller, the experienced Italian has no plans to back off, with five other rivals all holding a mathematical chance of becoming the inaugural WTCR OSCARO champion.
“I’ve been leading this championship since the first race,” said the 56-year-old, who is also chasing a first win in Macau. “I’m the oldest guy with everybody behind me. I will fight very hard to win this title but Macau is a lottery and we know it’s very difficult.”
Frenchman Muller, the most successful driver in World Touring Car history with four FIA titles, said: “Maybe we lost the championship but everything is possible. Until it’s not mathematically possible you never give up. Macau is Macau and there are a lot of points [available].”
Sweden’sThed Björk, the 2017 FIA World Touring Car champion, is 14 points behind his YMR team-mate Muller with Spanish Cupra driverPepe Oriola11 points further back for Team OSCARO by Campos Racing.
Jean-Karl Vernay(Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team) is fifth in the table, 11 points down on Oriola and 75 adrift of Tarquini.Esteban Guerrieri(ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport Honda) andNorbert Michelisz(BRC Racing Team) complete the seven title contenders, 78 and 79 points behind Tarquini respectively.
Although all seven championship chasers have raced on the Circuito da Guia before, only Muller and Michelisz have won in Macau with Michelisz taking the Guia Race laurels in 2010. With his title chances slim, the Hungarian will be using that triumph as a positive. “I’m not in the best position but in Macau everything can happen,” he said.
The Magnificent Seven at a glance:Gabriele Tarquini (Italy, BRC Racing Team):First position, 291 points
Yvan Muller (France, YMR):Second, 252 points
Thed Björk (Sweden, YMR):Third, 238 points
Pepe Oriola (Spain, Team OSCARO by Campos Racing):Fourth, 227 points
Jean-Karl Vernay (France, Audi Sport Leopard Lukoil Team):Fifth, 216 points
Esteban Guerrieri (Argentina, ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport):Sixth, 213 points
Norbert Michelisz (BRC Racing Team):Seventh, 212 points
Points are allocated as follows:
Key: SQ = Second Qualifying; R1 = Race 1; R2 = Race 2; R3 = Race 3