By Sports Reporter/Doha
High performance motorsport returns to Qatar later this month but this time on four wheels rather than two.
After Chaz Davies claimed a win double in the World Superbike Championship finale a the Losail International Circuit last weekend, it’s the turn of the FIA World Touring Car Championship to visit the Qatar track for a floodlit spectacular from 24-25 November.
Here’s a summary of what to look out for:
Battle for second takes centre stage
While José Mar?a L?pez has wrapped up his third WTCC title, the battle for the coveted runner-up spot and, indeed, third place will be intense. Yvan Muller, L?pez’s factory Citroën team-mate and preparing for his final WTCC races before he retires, occupies second on 235 points but works Honda trio Tiago Monteiro (204 points), Norbert Michelisz (190) and Rob Huff (180) all retain mathematical possibilities to snatch the position.
Hello Opening Race & Main Race!
Gone are Race 1 and Race 2 for 2016, in their place come Opening Race and Main Race with the reverse-grid now used for the first clash of the weekend and the grid for the second event based on the results of the combined Qualifying.
Get ready for WTCC MAC3
New for 2016 and timed by TAG Heuer, the WTCC’s Official Timing Partner, the Tour de France inspired competition will put squads from Citroën, Honda and LADA against the clock over two timed laps of the Losail International Circuit. The three makes (Polestar will participate when it enters a third Volvo from 2017) nominate three drivers to take part in WTCC MAC3, which follows Qualifying Q3 once all cars have been refuelled and fitted with new Yokohama tyres. Running in reverse Manufacturers’ championship order, as soon as a team’s three cars leave the grid side by side, the clock starts and stops once the last car completes two flying laps. Failure to get all three cars over the line – or if the second or third car doesn’t finish within a maximum of 15 seconds after the first car – means no points.
Bennani prepares for victory parade
WTCC Race of Qatar will be an extended lap of honour for Mehdi Bennani following his capture of the WTCC Trophy for independent racers last time out in China. Bennani became the first Arabic driver to win an FIA world championship motor race when he took his maiden WTCC victory in Shanghai two seasons ago, and the Moroccan, who drives for Sébastien Loeb Racing, can also snatch third place in the final overall standings if results go his way.
The fastest driver will be rewarded
Drivers won’t just be chasing points in Qatar: they will also bid for the prestigious TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy, which goes to the driver setting the fastest lap of all in the two races.
Who’s on track in 2016
Citroën: World champion José Mar?a L?pez and Yvan Muller drive the factory C-Elysée WTCCs. Privateer squad Sébastien Loeb Racing expands to three cars with Tom Chilton and Grégoire Demoustier joining Mehdi Bennani.
Honda: Independent champion Norbert Michelisz gets his big factory break, while Rob Huff joins from LADA. Tiago Monteiro stays put, but there’s no drive for Gabriele Tarquini
LADA: Gabriele Tarquini continues in the WTCC at LADA after leaving Honda. Hugo Valente is handed a dream works ride after impressing as a privateer in 2015. Nicky Catsburg gets a full season.
Polestar: Volvo’s performance brand begins its long-term WTCC campaign with two S60 Polestar TC1s. Multiple Scandinavian Touring Car champion Thed Bj?rk is part of the factory driver line-up.
WTCC Trophy: Bennani, Chilton and Demoustier aside, Tom Coronel is back for WTCC season 12 in his ROAL Motorsport
Chevrolet: Campos Racing’s John Filippi turned 21 in February and gets Yvan Muller as a driver coach. John Bryant-Meisner crosses over from single-seater racing with Nika International, while James Thompson deputises for René Mu?nnich at ALL.INK.COM Mu?nnich Motorsport with the team founder busy at a clashing World Rallycross event. Zeng Motorsport enters two Hondas for Hungarian youngsters Ferenc Ficza and D?niel Nagy.
Thursday, November 24
16h00-16h30: Free Practice 1
21h00-21h30: Free Practice 2
Friday, November 25
14h30-14h50: Qualifying Q1
14h55-15h05: Qualifying Q2
From 15h10: Qualifying Q3
16h00-16h30: WTCC MAC3
21h20-21h50: Opening Race (12 laps)
22h35-23h05: Main Race (13 laps)
All the spectators have free entrance to the main Grandstand for the 2-days event and the Paddock pas is QR200 for 2 days. The VIP ticket (Thursday & Friday) is QR1,200.
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