Former ETCC race winner Manuel Fernandes will step up to the WTCC with RC Motorsport for his home race in Portugal next weekend, as the Russian team expands to three cars for the first time.
Fernandes will make it two Portuguese racers on the grid for the first time this season, joining Yann Ehrlacher and Kevin Gleason in one of the team’s LADA Vesta WTCC cars.
Fernandes was previously a winner in the ETCC at the Vila Real street circuit in 2016, when he was racing a SEAT León Cup Racer TCR. He won the opening race last year, before also finishing second in race two.
The Portuguese driver originally competed in single-seaters, before moving into the Abarth Trophy series more recently.
“I’m really excited,” said Fernandes “I missed the opportunity to do this race two years ago but I knew inside that one day if I had another chance to participate I wouldn’t let it go.
“This is the opportunity to do one thing that I love in a no-pressure environment. My preparation will be on the racing weekend only but it’s my city, a track that I know very well and with no need to get any results. It’s important I enjoy this as much as possible.”
The Head of Eurosport Events, François Ribeiro, is pleased to be able to welcome another local driver for the championship’s second street race of the season.
“We are very pleased to welcome Manuel, a second Portuguese driver of course, to the WTCC family for his home race,” said Ribeiro. “Manuel is well aware of the level of the WTCC and the drivers but he’s approaching this opportunity in a very sensible way, he has a good team around him and we wish him well for his home race.”
This year’s Race of Portugal will be the first in WTCC history to feature a mandatory ‘joker lap’ for all drivers around one of the circuit’s roundabouts.