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Fernandes makes it dois for Portugal in the WTCC

Fernandes makes it dois for Portugal in the WTCC

15/06/2017 14:00

Manuel Fernandes will go from European Touring Car Cup winner to WTCC rookie when he contests his home round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship in Vila Real, Portugal next week (23-25 June).

Fernandes won the inaugural ETCC Race of Vila Real on the challenging street track in the northern Portugal city where he lives last June, but will step up to the big brother WTCC in a third RC Motorsport entry when the championship makes its third visit there later this month.

He will partner season rookies Yann Ehrlacher and Kevin Gleason in RC Motorsport’s exciting line-up, which expands to a three-car operation for the first time.

And his inclusion on the expanded WTCC grid means local fans will have two Portuguese drivers to support this year with Tiago Monteiro, the 2016 WTCC Race of Portugal winner, heading the charge for the factory Honda team as he bids to wrestle back the championship lead.

“I’m really excited,” said Fernandes, who began competing in single seaters and has enjoyed recent success in the Abarth Trophy series. “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.”

François Ribeiro, Head of Eurosport Events, the WTCC promoter, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Manuel, a second Portuguese driver of course, to the WTCC family for his home race. Manuel is a driver with considerable experience and ability. He’s 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.”

WTCC Race of Portugal first took place in 2007 with Vila Real entering the fray in 2015. A circuit oozing history and intrigue, racing has been held on the hillside roads of the city since 1931, when Gaspar Sameiro and Ercilio Barbosa conquered the original 7.150-kilometre course in a Ford Model A. The current 4.785-kilometre layout is a challenging blend of turns, climbs and descents and is dubbed the Nürburgring Nordschleife of the South. While chicanes have been installed for safety reasons, the spectacle remains unaltered with speeds nearing 240kph on the final downhill section.

New for 2017 is the inclusion of the ‘joker’ lap, a first for world championship motor racing. It will require drivers to take an alternative, longer, route once in the Opening Race and once in the Main Race to further spice up the street racing action.

Norbert Michelisz has received yet more silverware. Twenty-four hours after picking up his trophy for finishing runner-up in the FIA World Touring Car Championship at the FIA Prize Giving event in Paris, the Hungarian was honoured a little closer to home.

The top three drivers in the 2017 FIA World Touring Car Championship were honoured in Paris on Friday evening when the stunning Château de Versailles hosted the annual FIA Prize Giving ceremony.

FIA World Touring Car Championship promoter Eurosport Events has broken with tradition by awarding the prestigious WTCC Nürburgring Nordschleife Best Driver Trophy to not one but two drivers after Polestar Cyan Racing’s factory duo, Thed Björk and Nicky Catsburg, tamed planet earth’s toughest race track in spectacular fashion back in May.

Jean Todt has been re-elected as President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) at the organisation’s General Assembly in Paris today.

Thed Björk will be crowned FIA World Touring Car champion for 2017 at the FIA Prize Giving in Paris this evening. Here are some facts about Polestar Cyan Racing’s swift Swede.

The FIA World Touring Car Championship will be replaced from 2018 with new technical regulations, a new format and a new name following a vote of approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris yesterday (6 December).