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Making a positive first impression

At least that’s what eight drivers will be hoping to do this weekend as they make their World Touring Car Championship débuts. Touring-Cars.Net profiled each of the rookies ahead of their first race in the WTCC.

Gábor Wéber (#27, Zengő Motorsport)

With fellow Hungarian Norbert Michelisz’s success in the series, and the addition of a Hungarian round in 2011, the popularity of the WTCC has risen substantially in Hungary. This will only rise further with the addition of a second car for Zengő Motorsport for Gábor Wéber (photo above). Wéber’s recent background is in the SEAT León Eurocup where he has been competing for Zengő. The 40 year-old has taken the step to join the WTCC for 2012 and will have plenty to learn from Michelisz.

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Alex MacDowall (#11, bamboo engineering)

The 21 year-old Brit moves up from the British Touring Car Championship where he has competed for the past two seasons. During his time in the BTCC, MacDowall took a best result of second on two occasions, although a maiden win eluded him. Prior to this he was a competitor in the UK Renault Clio Cup, finishing second in the championship in 2009.

Although MacDowall is new to the series he has good experience of the Chevrolet Cruze and his team, bamboo engineering, are familiar with the majority of circuits having competed in the WTCC for the past two years.

Pasquale Di Sabatino (#12, bamboo engineering)

Italian Di Sabatino, 23, participated in the Auto GP series in 2011 where he finished 12th in the standings and took a best result of 4th. Sabatino’s background is in single seaters where he raced in the World Series by Renault between 2007 and 2009, taking one win at the Hungaroring in 2009. He has taken the decision to switch to touring car racing for 2012.

Alberto Cerqui (#16, ROAL Motorsport)

The winner of the 2011 Italian Superstars Series, Alberto Cerqui, joins ROAL Motorsport for 2012. Taking three victories on his way to the title, the talented Italian will join the independent BMW team in one of its 320 TC’s. Already well acquainted with rear wheel drive touring car racing, Cerqui is expected to impress on his début.

Tom Chilton (#23, Team Aon)

The 11-time BTCC race winner Tom Chilton takes the step up to the WTCC along with his team Arena Motorsport and team-mate James Nash for 2012. Chilton is one of the most experienced WTCC ‘rookies’ for 2012, having more than ten years of tin top experience under his belt. However with a lack of knowledge of the circuits and a lack of set-up data for the car, he will face a challenging entry to the top level of touring car racing.

Andrea Barlesi (#40, SUNRED Engineering)

Italian-Belgian Andrea Barlesi has, until recently, been competing in sportscar racing and raced in the Formula Le Mans series in winter 2010, where he took a number of podium finishes. He raced last season in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for OAK Racing, securing a best finish of third in class at Sebring along with Frederic Da Rocha and Patrice Lafargue. The 20-year old is one of the youngest drivers on the grid and, like many other new entries, will be seeking to learn from his more experienced team-mates at SUNRED.

Isaac Tutumlu (#24, Proteam Racing)

The 26 year-old Spaniard was a late replacement for Javier Villa García at Proteam Racing. Isaac Tutumlu competed in the International Superstars Series for Campos Racing in 2011, alongside former WTCC racer Sergio Hernández. Tutumlu took a best result of 11th in the series and only entered for the first three meetings. Tutumlu lifted the Catalunyan Touring Car Championship title in 2008 and has also competed in international GT racing.

James Nash (#14, Team Aon)

Joining Tom Chilton at Team Aon this season is 26 year-old Brit James Nash. Demonstrating important consistency last season, Nash not only took the Independent Drivers title but also his first win at Rockingham.

One advantage that Nash has over his team-mate Chilton is that he has raced at some of the European circuits the WTCC attends, having competed in the 2008 SEAT León Eurocup championship.

Nash joined the BTCC in 2009 and competed in selected events for RML, taking his first podium finish in only his tenth race. He joined Triple Eight from the second meeting onwards in 2010 and finished 12th overall. Last year he was the independents champion as well as finishing an extremely impressive equal fourth in the driver’s championship.

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