I think this opening shot of Yvan Muller's Seat Leon bouncing high above the apex of the infield chicane at Imola, pretty much sums up what WTCC is all about. It's all very hectic, with virtually the shortest time windows to get things done so the drivers really have no time to waste. The two half hour practices on Saturday were followed by a 35 minute qualifying session, and from then it's onto the two 11 lap races on Sunday. For this reason the drivers push 110% from the get go, giving us, the spectators, some of the best racing action out there.
Even on the opening lap of the first practice session the cars came down the steep hill into the Rivazza complex at full blast, downshifting through the gears with the engines screaming away at what sounded like 3,000 rpm above the rev limiter!
On top of the Seat and BMW teams Chevrolet also participates with the Cruze, a car that actually looks pretty cool in racing trim with those bulging wide over-fenders.
In addition to the works teams there are a few privateers like Fabiani in his Proteam Motorsport 320si.
I think Rod an I chose a pretty sweet location for the qualifying session, as most drivers were hammering through the Variante Alta chicane like it wasn't even there, flying and bouncing all over the place…
…like Mehdi Bennani in his Exagon Engineering Leon TFSI, which seems to bounce up in the air following the massive suspension compression from the previous picture.
Rod was strategically located to capture the flying-car action with his video camera. The grin on his face is one of satisfaction!
We got to catch some more open wheel action too, this time in the form of Formula Master.
Having these cool BMW Motorsport wristbands meant we had access to the BMW hospitality area where we could relax when the action on track died down.
I was impressed by the high quality of the interior decor, which on top of a comfy lounge area with soft sofas included these under-lit tables for enjoying a nice drink on.
Here is Rod in deep thought over which drink to choose from the menu.
The buffet included a wide selection of pasta, salads and tantalizing deserts, all things I couldn't resist sampling.
To counteract the inevitable sleepiness that follows an over-exuberant eating session, a nice espresso usually takes care of things. Notice the BMW branded sugar!
Rod enjoying his BMW Power cappuccino!
This is what powers the WTCC 320si, a highly tuned, naturally aspirated 2L four cylinder motor developing 280 PS at 8,500 rpm.
Knowing practically nothing at all about this series before this weekend, I was pretty surprised that diesels are raced against gasoline-powered cars. These Seat Leon TDIs are enjoying a pretty evident advantage this year, probably due to the higher torque giving them a slight advantage powering out of corners.
Italian national hero Alessandro Zanardi was in full form this week-end behind the wheel of his specially modified BMW Team Italy-Spain 3-series.
He is quite a character, always enjoying a bit of banter with the interviewers…
…when not busy behind the wheel of his BMW.
Having suffered a double leg amputation following his horrendous crash in CART back in 2001, his race car has been equipped with special controls that allow Alex to drive the car using only his hands. He hasn't lost any of his racing spirit, staying right on pace throughout the weekend.
We spent a lot of time with 3-times WTCC champion Andy Priaulx of BMW Team UK, following his performance over this Imola round and doing a shoot of his BMW in the pit lane. Stay tuned for more on this.
My wife came along to check out the action and was a good sport helping Rod lug his video equipment around the deceptively big Imola circuit.
Here is Andrea Larini at the wheel of one of only a few gasoline powered Leons!
Lada is the fourth manufacturer involved in WTCC with the Priora sedan, not the most modernly styled car.
More BMW action from another privateer Stefano D'Aste…
…driving one of the most attractive 3-series in the championship.
It was surprising to see just how hot the exhaust system of the BMWs gets! That and the aggressive negative camber and toe in that is dialed into the rear suspension geometry.
There is tons more curb-hopping mayhem to come from the coverage of Sunday's two races. Don't miss the action from Day-3!
-Dino Dalle Carbonare