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WTCC 2012 Review – The Top 10 Drivers

The 2012 World Touring Car Championship saw 46 drivers take part in at least one race weekend throughout the 12 round campaign, which visited five different continents and 12 countries.

Out of the 46 drivers, 25 of them scored at least one Championship point while there were 6 different race winners and a further 4 drivers securing a podium finish.

Looking back over the season, who did rate as their top ten WTCC drivers of 2012?

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10. Tom Coronel – ROAL Motorsport

Coronel finished the campaign as the best of the BMW drivers’ for the second consecutive season but he will feel disappointed that he couldn’t push on after his 2011 campaign.

23 finishes from 24 races shows consistency and 20 points finishes throughout the campaign, including five podiums helped to secure his top five Championship finish.

The Dutchman also produced a few memorable drives after a bad qualifying session, with a sixth place finish in Japan having started outside the top 20.

9. Alex MacDowall – bamboo engineering

MacDowall was one of 3 British drivers’ to graduate into the World Touring Car Championship for 2012, after two years in the British Touring Car Championship alongside Jason Plato in the Silverline Chevrolet outfit.

He made an impressive debut at Monza in the bamboo engineering Chevrolet Cruze 1.6T, taking a brace of top ten finishes and a double Yokohama Independents’ podium finishes but it wasn’t until the trip to Austria and the Salzburgring where things started to click, as he secured his first Independents’ victory.

MacDowall remained in contention for the Independents’ title all the way to Shanghai, but lost out on a top four finish after seeing his season ended in the barriers on the exit of Mandarin at Macau.

8. Tiago Monteiro – SEAT Tuenti Racing/JAS Motorsport Honda

The former Formula One driver had a mixed season, having started off in the under powered SunRed SL Leon 1.6T before switching to the brands new JAS Motorsport Honda Civic for the final events of the season.

Monteiro had an inconsistent season – he had six retirements at the wheel of the SEAT while securing a best result of fifth, which he achieved in Hungary and Austria.

Having been confirmed as one of the two JAS Motorsport Honda drivers, he swapped teams before the Asian races and in the three events he competed in, he secured his first podium of the campaign as well as the first for Honda.

He will be considered as one of the favourites for the 2013 title.

7. Gabriele Tarquini – Lukoil Racing Team

The experienced Italian secured the only SEAT victory of the season at Slovakiaring, as part of a Lukoil Racing Team 1, 2 – that proved to be his final victory for the Spanish manufacturer as he was confirmed, alongside Monteiro, as a Honda driver for 2013.

Three early season retirements hindered his challenge as did a couple of low scores but after his retirement in the opening Hungarian race, Tarquini went on to be classified in the remaining races, even if he failed to finish inside the top ten.

He spent the latter end of the season helping with the development of the Honda Civic which he will race in 2013, while continuing to figure at the sharp end of the grid.

As will his 2013 team-mate at Honda, Tarquini will be one of the favourites for the Championship title.

6. Yvan Muller – Chevrolet

Muller, the reigning Champion heading into the 2012 campaign was the favourite for his third title on the trot and his early season form suggested that he would be hard to beat.

However, the 2012 campaign wasn’t a stellar one for the Frenchman as he got involved in a few scrapes with both his Chevrolet team-mates and others and subsequent penalties meant that he lost out on valuable Champion points.

Eight victories, including becoming the first driver in WTCC history to win the opening three races kept Muller in contention until Shanghai, where his single retirement and another non score dented his Championship aspirations which he couldn’t recover.

Muller is yet to confirm his plans for 2013, as Chevrolet withdrew from the WTCC at the end of the 2012 campaign.

5. Stefano D’Aste – Wiechers-Sport

D’Aste saw 2012 become his best year to date in the WTCC as he took his first ever victory in the series as well as pushing the works drivers for the entire season.

Rejoining Wiechers-Sport for 2012, the Italian racer was right in the hunt for the Yokohama Independents’ trophy and took three class victories inside the opening six races. However, his attempts to secure the title took a hit mid season as a run of one win in 13 races put him on the back foot.

A hat trick of class wins at the start of the Asian leg of the campaign kept him in the hunt but a tough Macau weekend scuppered his chances of repeating his 2007 success.

Two outright wins were the highlight of his season. Salzburgring saw the Italian secure his maiden win on the final corner while Suzuka saw him lead from start to finish.

Nothing has been confirmed for D’Aste in 2013 yet – D’Aste has reviewed his season for TCN which can be read here.

4. Norbert Michelisz – Zengo Motorsport

The former simulation racer come WTCC racer, Michelisz had his best campaign to date which culminated in him winning the Yokohama Independents’ title in the Zengo Motorsport BMW 320TC.

One victory at home came in 2012, while opportunities for victories at Monza – he hit a pigeon while leading – and Sonoma Raceway meant that he couldn’t break into the outright top five.

In the opening 18 races, the Hungarian racer failed to score in one race – a DNF in Marrakech – and this was the basis for him to build up an advantage in the Yokohama Independents’, a lead he’d never lose come Macau.

He and the team had been rumoured to the satellite Honda team while he confirmed that the team are evaluating a switch to a different car for 2013 and beyond. In the right machinery, Michelisz will be a WTCC Champion.

3. Alain Menu – Chevrolet

The 2012 WTCC runner up, Menu had a strong and consistent season and had it not been for bad luck, whether with contact from his Chevrolet team-mates or retirements through no fault of his own, he could have finished as the Champion.

The Swiss racer was the first driver to defeat Muller in 2012 and he finished the campaign with six victories, including victory in Chevrolet’s final race as a WTCC manufacturer on the streets of Macau.

Menu has nothing confirmed for the 2013 campaign but has indicated that he’s accept a testing position with a new manufacturer if he couldn’t secure a drive.

2. Pepe Oriola – SEAT Tuenti Racing Team

18yr old Oriola proved to be the revelation of the 2012 campaign, with the young Spanish racer being in the hunt for the Yokohama Independents’ title for the entire campaign while pushing for a top 6 Championship finish.

A strong start to the season saw Oriola pick up three Yokohama Independents’ wins in the opening six races but a slip in form mid-season – having secured his career best result in Portugal – meant that he, alongside D’Aste were playing catch up.

A failure to score in China and Macau ultimately cost the youngster the Independents’ crown, but he has shown that he has the potential to win races and be a WTCC Champion of the future. Nothing has been announced for 2013 for Oriola.

1. Rob Huff – Chevrolet

Third in 2010, second in 2011 – was 2012 set up for Huff to finally win his first WTCC title? After the opening seven races, Huff hadn’t taken a victory and had suffered a DNF in Slovakia. Bouncing back to take his first win of the season in the second race in Slovakia, Huff was only outside the top 4 once more until the penultimate race at Macau.

The British driver was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of any incidents which his team-mates round themselves in while also had luck on his side on occasions, the final lap at Salzburgring where he suffered a puncture but held on for second or the second race at Shanghai, where he took the Championship lead with a win after his team-mates collided.

Huff repaid the faith shown in him by RML by winning his first title in Chevrolet’s final season but currently has nothing confirmed for 2013, and has said he’d be open for a return to the BTCC, where RML first gave him a chance in the SEAT Toledo back in 2004.

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