Wow! I didn’t expect to be writing this, I’m still partially lost for words. To be honest, I expected to writing another article heavily focused on Citroen’s dominance at the Twin Ring Motegi at the weekend, but it’s with a sense of huge relief and satisfaction that I write this in completely different circumstances. World Touring Cars may just have regained it’s mojo.
It was only last week that we published an article highlighting that the dominance of Citroen could be harming the WTCC and Touring Cars as a whole, and it was still only last week, in our WTCC Race of Japan Preview that we predicted another Citroen clean sweep in both races at the Twin Ring Motegi.
I’m under no illusion that 2015 hasn’t really been a classic year for World Touring Cars, but round 9 at the weekend could potentially be the spark this series needs to inject it back to the forefront of global Touring Car racing. In a bumper Touring Car weekend, jam packed with great action, the WTCC had the potential to be lost into insignificance with both the Sandown 500 and round 7 of the DTM at Oschersleben taking place on the same day(s). But it’s with great pleasure that the action at Twin Ring Motegi could be exactly the series was crying out for, even with Lopez taking victory in race 1.
It was so refreshing to see a podium with drivers from different Manufacturers (Honda, Chevrolet and Lada in race 2), and it was even more of a pleasure to see a rejuvenated Honda squad properly taking the fight to Citroen, for the first time this season. Re-watch race 2, as I have many times since Sunday and it’s not hard to make associations with the series’ better days in the late 2000’s where all of SEAT, BMW and Chevrolet were regularly in contention for victories. In the spirit of competition, it is also worth mentioning that Citroen are now mathematically assured of winning the 2015 drivers title, although we did pretty much know that anyway. Lopez is now 187 points of 5th placed Michelisz and 74 ahead of his nearest rival Yvan Muller. You’d have to be a brave man to bet against Lopez retaining his title, and and even braver man to bet against a Lopez or Muller crown.
Because even before Japan, a Citroen title was effectively sewn up anyway, the best we can hope for in the remaining three rounds of the WTCC season (China, Thailand and Qatar), is for more of what we saw on Sunday in Japan, action and good traditional Touring Car racing.
By no means am I against Citroen, I think they’ve done a remarkable job to completely dominate World Touring Cars for the last two seasons, and it would be a horrific shame if they left the series at the end of 2016, but I’m sure I speak for all Touring Car fans, when I say that domination by one team can sometimes harm the prospects of the series. Of course, us hardcore Motorsport fans will always be there, but newcomers to the series and the sport may be put off and never return.
Honda embarked on an intensive test program during the extended WTCC summer break, and after looking at results from the weekend, progress has clearly been made. Whether they can continue that progress in China remains to be seen, but the prospect of the two Manufacturers duking it out at what is supposed to be the pinnacle of Touring Car racing is a mouth-watering prospect I’m sure we’d all love to see.