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Race preview: Hunter to hunted Fulín holds ETCC title initiative

Race preview: Hunter to hunted Fulín holds ETCC title initiative

10/09/2017 06:00

The FIA European Touring Car Cup enters another exciting phase in Belgium this week when the multi-driver title battle heads to Zolder for the penultimate event of the season.

Petr Fulín tops the ETCC standings after eight races, 13 points ahead of Christjohannes Schreiber with Norbert Nagy and Igor Stefanovski just two points behind Schreiber.

In fact, the top four are among nine drivers still with a mathematical chance of following Kris Richard as ETCC champion such has been the intensity of the on-track action this year, although it’s Fulín who is firmly in the driving seat after he claimed his third win of 2017 last time out in Portugal. And after losing out on title glory on countback to Richard in 2016, Czech Fulín will be determined to get revenge in his Křenek Motorsport SEAT.

Schreiber, meanwhile, is also anxious for a change of fortune at Zolder. The Swiss Honda driver had shot into the title lead on the back of winning three of the first four races. But after claiming three points from a possible 46 over two frustrating race weekends, Schreiber will be playing catch-up at the former Belgian Grand Prix venue, where he’ll be racing for the first time. “It’s an unknown situation for me being involved in the title fight so late in the season but it definitely feels good,” said Schreiber. “I know that it will be difficult to catch up the 13 points to a very fast Petr Fulín but I promise to fight until the end.”

Nagy is also new to the four-kilometre track and will be driving a newly-built SEAT after his original was wrecked when he crashed at Vila Real, where his Zengő Motorsport team-mate and fellow Hungarian Zsolt Dávid Szabó claimed his maiden ETCC victory.

After scoring his first win of 2017 at the Nürburgring Nordschleife in his self-run SEAT, Stefanovski is equal third in the standings with fellow Zolder rookie Nagy. “It feels surreal to hold third place and to have a chance to win this championship even if I am a dark horse,” said the Macedonian. “We are ready to fight for it and with a little bit of luck I hope we can take the opportunity.”

Like Fulín, Swiss Peter Rikli and Germany’s Andreas Pfister have previous Zolder experience to call upon and are fifth and eighth respectively in the standings. However, sixth-placed Fábio Mota, from Portugal, is a Zolder newcomer.

Serb Mladen Lalušić partners Mota at LEIN Racing, while Bulgaria’s Plamen Kralev and the returning Rudolf Pešović are both Audi RS3 LMS mounted with Serb Pešović making his second ETCC appearance following a points finish in Hungary. Meanwhile, Hungarian lady racer Anett György completes the runners for Zengő Motorsport.

LIVE AND LOUD FROM ZOLDER
Both races that make up the FIA ETCC Race of Zolder weekend will be streamed live on the Eurosport Player and at www.fiaetcc.com. Delayed coverage of Race 1 and Race 2 will be broadcast on Eurosport 2 at 18h00 and 18h30 respectively on Sunday 17 September. RTBF will also broadcast delayed coverage of the event in Belgium.

WEEKEND OVERVIEW
The ETCC returns to Zolder after a one-year absence. Following two 45-minute test sessions on Friday 15 September and a solitary Free Practice on the morning of Saturday 16 September, Qualifying gets underway at 14h45 for 30 minutes. Sunday’s 13-lap races are scheduled to start at 13h05 and 14h10. Visit www.fiaetcc.com for live timing, results, media releases and other documentation

TRACK GUIDE IN 100 WORDS
Once the home of the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix, Zolder returns to the ETCC roster for the first time since 2015 when it was also selected as the venue of the penultimate event of the season. Opening in 1963 as Belgium’s first permanent race circuit, Zolder will forever be associated with the death of racing icon Gilles Villeneuve, who died from injuries sustained in an accident while qualifying for the 1982 GP. And while F1 has long since stopped coming to the track, Zolder remains a popular – and challenging – venue for national and international car, bike and truck categories.

PROVISIONAL KEY TIMINGS
Friday 15 September: 12h00, ETCC and ETRC photocall (starting grid); 14h05-14h50, Testing 1; 15h40-16h25: Testing 2 Saturday 16 September: 10h20-11h05, Free Practice; 14h45-15h15, Qualifying; 15h20 (approx.): Post-Qualifying press conference (Media Centre, first floor, pitlane building) Sunday 17 September: 13h05-13h35, Race 1 (13 laps); 14h10-14h40, Race 2 (13 laps); 14h45 (approx.), race podiums; 15h00 (approx.), Post-Race press conference (Media Centre, first floor, pitlane building). Timings provisional, subject to change

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2015?
Mato Homola was the top scorer in the Single Make Trophy section of the FIA European Touring Car Cup on its last visit to Zolder in 2015 as he and Dušan Borković each took an outright and class win. Davit Kajaia was heading to overall glory in the opening race in Belgium until a mechanical issue dropped him back and brought his run of consecutive victories in the TC2T category to an end. His misfortune let in Aytaç Biter for the category spoils with Michal Matĕjovský claiming a victory double in TC2 after Peter Rikli led early on in race two. Niklas Mackschin couldn’t be beaten in Super 1600, while Turkey secured the ETCC Nations’ Cup laurels after Ümit Ülkü took the TC2T triumph in the second 13-lapper.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2017?
While the ETCC continues to feature at four WTCC events, including on a combined grid at the Nürburgring Nordschleife, Zolder returns to the calendar after a break of 12 months and Most hosts the ETCC for the first time at its season-finale meeting in early October. In other changes, the ETCC Super 2000 Cup has been renamed ETCC 1 with the ETCC Super 1600 Cup renamed ETCC 2. The ETCC Nations’ Cup will not be awarded in 2017.

ETCC RULES REFRESHER
As in previous seasons, the results of Qualifying will determine the grid order for Race 1 with the results of the first race deciding the starting grid for Race 2, albeit with the top eight finishers lining up in reverse order. However, unlike in previous seasons both races will begin from a standing start. ETCC competitors will score points as follows: fastest three drivers in qualifying: 3-2-1. The top eight finishers in each class in each race will score: 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1. A race-by-race prize fund of €18,000 will be shared among the classified finishers in ETCC 1. Yokohama continues as the ETCC’s tyre partner for 2017.

PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1 Fulín 57; 2 Schreiber 44; 3 Nagy and Stefanovski 42; 5 Rikli 25.5; 6 Mota and Szabó 23; etc. Full standings available at: https://www.fiaetcc.com/standings/

 

Fábio Mota fought for a podium finish in both FIA European Touring Car Cup races at Zolder – but had to settle for a best result of fourth place scored in the first of two races in Belgium.

Seventeen-year-old Czech Václav Nimč will step up to the FIA European Touring Car Cup when the all-action series visits his homeland next month for ETCC Race of Most, the final event of the 12-round season.

Rudolf Pešović has explained what went wrong in Race 2 at FIA ETCC Race of Zolder – and his hopes for being back in action for Most finale next month.

Andreas Pfister reckons fifth place is as good as it could have got when the FIA European Touring Car Cup returned to Zolder last weekend.

Petr Fulín has publically thanked his Křenek Motorsport team for the work it did to keep his FIA European Touring Car Cup title bid on course.

Christjohannes Schreiber, Igor Stefanovski, Peter Rikli, Norbert Nagy and Petr Fulín attended the post-race press conference at FIA ETCC Race of Zolder. This is what they had to say.