The FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) is the planet’s foremost touring car championship. Officially sanctioned by the FIA, the series has it’s roots in the European Touring Car Championship which itself evolved from the former Italian Superturismo Championship.
The WTCC officially had its first season back in 1987 when a series was formed based primarily in Europe. However the series was marred by controversies regarding points, payments and technical infringements and it lasted only the one year.
Fast forward to 2005 and a ‘new’ WTCC was born. Following the successful resurrection of the ETCC it was decided that a world championship be created.
Essentially WTCC cars are large-scale production touring cars modified by a kit. It is a requirement that the engine that is used is derived from the homologated model – meaning that the cars racing in the WTCC have relevance to the road cars the manufacturer’s are producing.
To prevent manufacturers from producing a small handful of ‘souped-up’ machines in order to be competitive in touring cars, it is a requirement that at least 2,500 identical models of the road car variant to be raced are produced over a 12 month period. However in the past manufacturers have shown that they will go great lengths to win in motorsport – with Alfa Romeo producing a ‘homologation special’ of its 155 model purely to dominate the 1994 British Touring Car Championship as an example.
Currently the WTCC is moving toward a championship where all cars will be powered by 1.6 litre turbo engines. However in the years since its rebirth in 2005 until 2011 cars were normally-aspirated two litre machines, capable of approximately 150mph. All engines are restircted to 8,500 rpm.
Unlike many major championships the WTCC allows both petrol and diesel-powered cars to compete, as well as front and rear-wheel drive. This means that cars often have noticably different characteristics, with turbo diesel cars featuring heavier engines but higher top speeds and rear-wheel drive cars often getting stronger standing starts than their front-wheel drive rivals.
Since it’s creation there have been just four different champions – Roberto Ravaglia won the inaugural season back in 1987. at the wheel of a BMW M3. Andy Priaulx went on to win three successive titles when the series returned in 2005, until his reign was broken by Yvan Muller in 2008. Touring car legend Gabriele Tarquini took the title in 2009, before Muller successfully retook the crown in 2010.