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WTCC heads to new frontiers

The 2012 World Touring Car Championship heads to Slovakia and the Slovakia Ring for rounds seven and eight of the season, and the first of four new circuits on the 2012 calendar.

Arriving in Slovakia, it is Chevrolet who has been dominating the season to date with six victories from six races and their drivers, Yvan Muller, Alain Menu and Rob Huff occupy the top three positions in the Championship.

Reigning Champion Muller has won four of the six races to date to sit on top of the Championship standings. His win in Valencia meant that he became the first driver to win the opening three races of the season.

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Sitting second to Muller in the Championship is Menu, who has secured victories in the other two races and is Muller’s closest rival in the Championship, having reduced the deficit to fourteen points.

In contrast to his flying start of 2011, the third RML Chevrolet of Rob Huff is third in the Championship and without a victory since he secured a double victory at Macau in the 2011 season finale.

Two other Chevrolets appear on the grid in the hands of bamboo engineering. After seeing BTCC graduate Alex MacDowall start his campaign with a bang at Monza, his and the teams’ campaign has gone backwards slightly and they will hope to get back on track in Slovakia. Team-mate to MacDowall, Pasquale Di Sabatino will continue his learning curve and look to challenge for points in the Yokohama Independents battle.

The closest rivals to Chevrolet so far in 2012 have been BMW, who currently occupy second in the Manufacturer standings.

Tom Coronel has led the way for the ROAL Motorsport team with two podium finishes and three other top five finishes. He is fourth overall while his team-mate, Alberto Cerqui is fifteenth having failed to score since Monza.

Second best in the BMW ranks is Wiechers-Sport and Stefano D’Aste. The Italian picked up an outright podium finish in Spain and has secured four top five finishes to have a consistent start to the season. His aim is the Yokohama Independents’ trophy.

Other strong starts have come from Norbert Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport outfit, although the Hungarians results don’t show this. Michelisz was on for a strong result at Monza and could have a strong following this weekend.

Franz Engstler in the Liqui Moly Team Engstler BMW 320TC has also had a consistent start to the season and can never be discounted, while his team-mate, Charles Kaki Ng is learning the European circuits and has a best result of thirteenth.

The other BMW 320TC drivers have all struggled, with Proteam Racing’s Mehdi Bennani being the final point scorer in the German marquee’s car. His team-mate, Isaac Tutulmu is still learning the ropes but is absent from Slovakia after damage suffered at Marrakech while Michelisz’s team-mate, Gabor Weber is set to rejoin the series this weekend after missing the trip to Africa.

Leading the charge for SEAT is Lukoil Racing Team’s Gabriele Tarquini. Tarquini has shown that the SEAT Sport developed engine has potential after he secured Pole Position at Monza. He is sixth in the standings but can be assured of a committed weekend.

Another SEAT driver to have impressed to date is youngster Pepe Oriola in the Tuenti Racing Team SEAT Leon. The Spanish youngster leads the way in the Yokohama Independents and has impressed with his speed and consistency.

Tiago Monteiro has high hopes for the season but is struggling as he is using the SunRed 1.6litre turbocharged engine instead of the SEAT Sport engine. He has secured a brace of points finishes but should be higher up in the standings as should the Special Tuning Racing SEAT of Darryl O’Young.

Alexey Dudukalo has shown potential in his second season alongside 2009 Champion Tarquini but is yet to register a point’s finish as bad luck has hampered his start to the season.

Other SEAT’s on the grid come from Special Tuning Racing, who is running the 2.0litre turbo diesel for Tom Boardman while Sunred Engineering has one car for Andrea Barlesi. Sunred are also running Fernando Monje, but he is absent from the grid as he is competing in the European Touring Car Cup this weekend.

After a promising Marrakech weekend, Team Aon will look to build on their double points score and their first appearance in the second stage of qualifying. Both James Nash and Tom Chilton will be on an even footing this weekend as the Slovakia Ring is a new circuit for all of the team’s and driver’s.

Nash has shown that he is adapting to the WTCC quicker than Chilton but has also had two non finishes while Chilton has finished all six races to date. Nash has secured the team their best finish in the WTCC and the best finish for a Ford car in the series, as well as leading half the race at Marrakech and taking the teams’ first WTCC Pole Position.

With the circuit being new to all the drivers, the weekend could be unpredictable and Touring-Cars.Net will be covering all of the sessions this weekend, and offering live commentary on twitter: @touringcarslive.

Rounds seven and eight of the season will be shown live on Eurosport on Sunday, at 1pm and 2pm as well as on Eurosport player. Qualifying will be shown recorded at 12am Sunday, with the morning warm up live at 7.45am.

Touring-Cars.Net Slovakia Ring Predictions:

Pole Position: Rob Huff
Race 1: 1. Rob Huff, 2. Yvan Muller, 3. Alain Menu
Race 2 Pole Position: Stefano D’Aste
Race 2: 1. Yvan Muller, 2. Stefano D’Aste, 3. Gabriele Tarquini

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