Race preview: WTCR stars aim to be the best in Alsace GrandEst

Race preview: WTCR stars aim to be the best in Alsace GrandEst

01.08.2022: FIA World Touring Car Championship WTCR Alsace GrandEst Anneau du Rhin 5-7 August 2022 - FIA World Touring Car racing heading for an all-new Anneau du Rhin adventure - Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Azcona tops the title chase after Vallelunga pod


FIA World Touring Car Championship
WTCR Alsace GrandEst
Anneau du Rhin
5-7 August 2022

 

 

- FIA World Touring Car racing heading for an all-new Anneau du Rhin adventure


- Goodyear #FollowTheLeader Azcona tops the title chase after Vallelunga podium double


- Alsace aces Ehrlacher and Muller have six FIA World Touring Car titles between them


- Berthon excited to get another chance to race at home in the WTCR


- Can rivals stop Huff from enjoying more WTCR Trophy highs?




It’s one untried track to another in the all-action WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup. Following its first visit to Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi earlier this month, the exciting series is set for its next mission of discovery at Circuit de l’Anneau du Rhin, venue of the inaugural WTCR Race of Alsace GrandEst from August 5-7.




Located equidistant between the cities of Colmar and Mulhouse, Anneau du Rhin has a foot in the present and past with the Alsace GrandEst region of north-eastern France not only home to the 3.620-kilometre track, but also to the famous Bugatti sportscar brand. Indeed, Caroline Bugatti, the granddaughter of Ettore Bugatti, is on the circuit’s board of directors.



The significance of Alsace GrandEst in the motoring and motorsport industries goes much further, however. As well as being home to Bugatti, a PSA manufacturing plant operates in the region and helps to provide some of the 35,000 jobs available in the automotive industry to the local population.



And when it comes to motorsport, nine-time FIA World Rally champion Sébastien Loeb, plus multiple FIA World Touring Car title winners Yann Ehrlacher and Yvan Muller were all born and raised in Alsace. Ehrlacher’s mother Cathy, Yvan’s sister, was also a successful racing driver in her own right.



“With Yvan we are really proud to represent Alsace and to have a race here is absolutely incredible,” said Ehrlacher, the back-to-back FIA WTCR title winner. “It’s good as well for the fans because this region has been always fanatical about racing.


We had the World Rally Championship in the past with Sébastien Loeb but the fans have been waiting for something to come back at a high level and now they have it. It will be a great event and the circuit is really good, too. There’s a long straight, high-speed and low-speed corners and a fast chicane. It will be quite intense to put a good lap together, but it will be really good and close racing and something the fans will like to see.”



Ehrlacher tested his Goodyear-equipped Lynk & Co 03 TCR at Anneau du Rhin earlier this year and remarked on the “strange” feeling he experienced. “It was really strange and really weird waking up in my home and going to see the people I work with far away from home but just 20 minutes down the road,” said the Cyan Racing ace.




“I am not used to seeing my crew 20 minutes from where I was going to school. On a Monday morning five years ago or something like this I was waking up at the same time to go to school but, for the test, I was waking up and taking the same road to a race track as a professional driver.”



Muller, who holds the record for the most FIA World Touring Car Championship race wins and titles, said: “We are very pleased to have the opportunity to race at least once in our career in front of many people from our region. That will probably create some more pressure because a lot of people will be there so it will not be an easy weekend, but we will try to manage.



I did the WRC event in Alsace but it’s not comparable because the WRC is not my category, I was there as a tourist almost but here I am a WTCR driver and in World Touring Cars is where I have my titles so it will be different to the WRC experience. The track is quite interesting but it’s tricky and mistakes can be made.”






SECOND HOME WTCR RACE EXCITES NIFTY NATHANAËL



Three French drivers have enjoyed success in this season’s WTCR and Nathanaël Berthon is one of them. The Comtoyou DHL Team Audi Sport lives five hours away from Anneau du Rhin but can count the event as a second home race weekend following on from the season opener in Pau back in May.



“I am happy to have two races in France and for French people it’s always good,” said the Audi RS 3 LMS driver. “Hopefully the conditions will not be as hot as Vallelunga where we really suffered, even though was good for the summer body! We have tested [at Anneau Du Rhin], it’s not really a track for the Audi because the long and slow corners are not the best combination for us.



We will do our maximum as usual. We were close [to win] a few times this year but it never happened. In qualifying our performance has been there but not so much in the races. It’s not easy to gain, fight or hold position and this is something we are working on. Hopefully we find a solution and have a win in France because it would be amazing.”




WTCR 100 CLUB: HOW IT STANDS



The WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup’s WTCR 100 Club has six members following WTCR Race of Italy. Four drivers (Thed Björk, Yann Ehrlacher, Norbert Michelisz and Yvan Muller) have started 100 WTCR races with two (Tom Coronel and Esteban Guerrieri) now on 101 starts.




AZCONA THE WTCR’S GOODYEAR #FOLLOWTHELEADER BUT FOCUS KEY



Mikel Azcona completed WTCR Race of Italy with a 36-point advantage in his bid to win the WTCR − FIA World Touring Car Cup for the first time. But while the BRC Hyundai N Squadra Corse driver remains the Goodyear #FollowTheLeader, the Spaniard knows his advantage could quicky fade.


“It’s looking good, but there are still a few races to go and everything can happen as we have seen in previous years,” Azcona, who drives a Hyundai Elantra N TCR said.



“In one race weekend everything can happen, so I will continue to focus on this line, I will do my best every weekend, as a team, as a driver. I’m not looking at the title for the moment. For sure you think a little bit and it is always good to have this lead. But in the end we need to continue like this, no problems, no DNFs.”




HUFF SOLO NO MORE AS HE AIMS TO MAINTAIN WTCR TROPHY EDGE



Rob Huff remains the driver to beat in the WTCR Trophy − and a contender for outright title honours − despite a tough WTCR Race of Italy weekend aboard his Zengő Motorsport CUPRA Leon Competición.



But having raced at Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi as the Hungarian team’s lone representative following a hand injury to team-mate Dániel Nagy, Huff will head to Anneau du Rhin boosted by the news that fit-again Nagy is set to return to action in a built CUPRA.




 Richard Rodgers, photos WTCR



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01.08.2022 / MaP

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