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Brazil marks WTCC resumption

The 2012 World Touring Car Championship resumes this weekend at the Curitiba circuit in Brazil, after a seven week break since the last event at Portimao, Portugal.

Curitiba, normally the season opener this year marks the start of the flyaway races part of the season and the teams’ and drivers’ will have cooler conditions to deal with as it is the start of the Brazilian winter.

Arriving in Brazil as Championship leaders are Chevrolet, and the Brazilian race weekend marks the start of their final few weekends as a WTCC manufacturer, having previously announced their withdrawal from the series at the end of the season.

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Having secured 11 out of the 14 wins to date, the American manufacturer has a comfortable lead in the Manufacturer’s standings while their three drivers, Yvan Muller, Rob Huff and Alain Menu are the top three in the Championship.

Reigning Champion Muller has scored points in all 14 races to date and leads the way with six victories while Huff, 20 points behind his French team-mate saw his run of race finishes come to an end in Slovakia. Despite only having two victories – and the first of those coming in the second Slovakian race, Huff’s consistency has kept him in the hunt.

Menu, back in third is 39 points behind Muller having been his closest challenger during the first few races. Menu was the first driver to defeat Muller when he took victory in the second race at Valencia, his first of three for the season.

Leading the way for the position of best of the non Chevrolets is ROAL Motorsports’ Tom Coronel in the BMW 320TC. The Dutchman has finished all 14 races and scored points in 12 of them but is yet to stand on the top step of the podium, having taken a best result of second in the second Valencia race.

Completing the top five is Gabriele Tarquini in the Lukoil Racing Team SEAT Leon. The 2009 Champion has had a difficult season to date in the #3 SEAT Leon, with a single victory in Slovakia coming amidst three retirements.

The experienced Italian has shown the potential of the new SEAT Sport engine as he took the first non Chevrolet Pole Position at Monza. Curitiba marks the start of the final five races for Tarquini in a SEAT, as he moves to Honda for 2013.

The other non Independent SEAT Leon comes from SEAT Tuenti Racing Team for Tiago Monteiro, and the former Formula 1 driver has had a tough campaign as he has had to put up with the underpowered SunRed engine. Curitiba marks his penultimate appearance for SEAT, as he joins Honda after the Sonoma race weekend in September.

Having made their debut at the beginning of the 2012 campaign, James Nash and Tom Chilton in the Arena Motorsport run Team AON Ford Focus have seen the speed and potential of the car come to them and they arrive for their first flyaway race looking to continue their development process.

Nash currently leads the way in the Championship after taking the teams’ best result on the streets of Marrakech, bringing the #23 car home sixth having led the early laps while Chilton has finished 13 out of the 14 races run in the 2012 campaign to date.

The final works car isn’t due to make another appearance this season – James Thompson and the LADA team made their final outing of the current campaign in Portugal and showed some good speed over the two races.

The battle for the Yokohama Independents trophy is starting to become a two horse race as current leader Pepe Oriola in the #74 SEAT Tuenti Racing Team SEAT Leon and Norbert Michelisz in the Zengo Motorsport BMW 320TC.

It is Michelisz who leads the way in the overall Championship, having taken victory at his home race in Hungary and he arrives in Brazil sixth overall while Oriola is seventh, yet Oriola has a 10 point advantage in the Yokohama Independents.

Third in the Yokohama Independents classification is Salzburgring race winner Stefano D’Aste. Having started the season strongly, with 3 class wins in the first three weekends, his form has dropped off and he has slipped 33 points behind Oriola.

Leading the chasing pack is experienced German Franz Engstler, while lying joint fifth are two WTCC rookies, with former BTCC driver Alex MacDowall ahead of Alberto Cerqui. MacDowall took a class victory in Austria at the wheel of a bamboo engineering Chevrolet Cruze while Cerqui had his best weekend to date last time out in Portugal, as he secured a double Independents’ podium.

The Yokohama Independents’ class has seen one driver drop out in the shape of Gabor Weber; the second Zengo Motorsport driver only had the budget for the European part of the season. Returning to the series fresh from his European Touring Car Cup success is Fernando Monje, the youngster made his debut at Valencia before turning his attentions to the ETCC campaign.

Monje rejoins with the new SEAT Sport engine in his SEAT Leon, and joins fellow Independents’ Darryl O’Young and Tom Boardman in looking to climb up the order.

So 21 drivers will take to the Curitiba circuit for rounds 15 and 16 of the season and Touring-Cars.Net will have full coverage of the weekend, and on the official TCN twitter feed: @touringcarsnet.

Friday will see a 30 minute test for the WTCC ahead of two free practice sessions Saturday, at 12.20 UK time and 3.15 UK time, with Qualifying due to start at 8pm UK time.

Rounds fifteen and sixteen will take place on Sunday, 22 July with the first race since the seven week break getting underway at 7.05pm UK time, 3.05 Brazilian time while Round 16 will start at 8.20 UK time, 4.20 Brazilian time.

TCN Curitiba Predictions:

Pole Position: Rob Huff
Race 1: 1. Rob Huff, 2. Yvan Muller, 3. Gabriele Tarquini
Race 2 Pole Position: Alex MacDowall
Race 2: 1. Alain Menu, 2. Rob Huff, 3. Yvan Muller

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