This is the beginning of yet another Italian trip, a voyage that has taken Rod and I to one of the best known race tracks in the world, the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Autodromo Internazionale of Imola. Host of the old San Marino F1 Grand Prix and the place where F1 legend Ayrton Senna had his tragic fatal accident back in May 1994. Imola is a curious circuit snaking around the small town where it gets its name from, with houses littering most of its perimeter and a few others actually within the grounds!
We've come here for the 19th and 20th rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), a series known the world over for its action packed, bumper-to-bumper racing. While the teams spent the day setting up for the weekend racing, we walked around soaking up the atmosphere and checking out some of the smaller series that run along side the main WTCC events.
As we arrived at the track the SEAT Leon Eurocup cars were just coming in from their first free practice…
…and I couldn't get over how damn aggressive these things look!
Powering them is a 2L turbocharged engine developing 301 PS and 340 Nm, driving the front wheels via a 6-speed DSG gearbox.
The Trofeo Abarth 500 has to be one of the coolest racing series around, the little 500's packing 190 PS and 300 Nm of torque from their little 1.4L engines.
I have seen a few of these Lotus 2-Elevens out on the streets of Tokyo, but I have to say they look far more convincing on a race track!
Spotted these full carbon seats in an Elise. Definitely light, but probably not what you would consider comfortable.
The new 2+2 Evora was on display at the Lotus tent, looking very smooth at the front…
…but rather awkward towards the rear end. I'm sure it is a stunning car to drive, but the looks are definitely not for everyone.
Tunnel vision? As the day progressed Rod and I made our way under the track onto the stands…
…to check out some Formula 2 action.
BMW is one of the four manufacturers participating in the WTCC, along with SEAT, Chevrolet and Lada. I spotted this new Z4 outside their hospitality center parked up between a 6-series convertible and an M5 sedan. It's quite amazing how much this new model has grown over the previous generation car.
Alessandro Zanardi's 3-series racecar, fitted with special hand controls. I spotted him walking around the paddock, but didn't have the right lens on the camera for a proper shot. I will make sure to hunt him down tomorrow for a decent picture!
Yokohama is the sole tire manufacturer in the WTCC. This is what a two-car team goes through in one race weekend!
I spotted this very nice 650i, slammed on 20-inch MoTec (not the ECU maker!) wheels…
…and fitted with a racing exhaust system. The V8 powering it must sound pretty nice through those quad-pipes.
After lunch it was a long walk under the hot September sun to the far side of the track, to check out some Fiat 500 racing! We managed to pass the paddock just as the cars were entering the track.
This has to be the most successfully styled retro car ever!
Check out that massive front splitter. The drivers had no mercy during this qualifying session, pushing hard around the corners…
…far too hard at times!
I spotted current point leader Gabriele Tarquini as he was waiting to be filmed by the Eurosport guys in the tunnel that connects the paddock to the infield of the track. They were obviously preparing some kind of sequence for their coverage of this round…
…and had Taquini walk past another well known driver, Yvan Muller. You can see Tarquini's outline in the background. The action kicks off early tomorrow so I better hit the sack and get some rest. Hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at the preparations for the weekend's racing. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.
- Dino Dalle Carbonare