The FIA World Touring Car Championship is off to Vila Real in northern Portugal from 23-25 June and to a street track like no other. This is all you need to know.
Name:Circuito Internacional de Vila Real
Location:Av. Carvalho Araújo 7, 5000-651 Vila Real
Opening Race distance:11 laps (52.635km)
Main Race distance:13 laps (62.205km)
Lap record (qualifying):Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC), 1m56.633s (147.6kph), 25/06/16
Lap record (race):Rob Huff (Honda Civic WTCC), 1m58.385s (145.5kph), 26/06/16
WTCC appearances:2 (WTCC Race of Portugal also took place at Estoril, Portimão and Porto)
Time zone:GMT +1 hours
Nearest airport:Porto (101 kilometres)
TRACK GUIDE IN 100 WORDS
A circuit oozing history and intrigue, racing has been held on the hillside roads of Vila Real since 1931, when Gaspar Sameiro and Ercilio Barbosa conquered the original 7.150-kilometre course in a Ford Model A. Safety and financial factors meant races were held on an irregular basis until the WTCC’s arrival in 2015 provided stability and Vila Real’s first world championship-level race meeting. The 4.785-kilometre layout now used is a challenging blend of turns, climbs and descents. While a handful of chicanes were installed for safety reasons, the spectacle remains unaltered with speeds nearing 240kph on the final downhill section.
2016:Opening Race: Tom Coronel (Chevrolet Cruze); Main Race: Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic)
2015:Race 1: José María López (Citroën C-Elysée); Race 2: Ma Qing Hua (Citroën C-Elysée)
2013:R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: James Nash (Chevrolet Cruze)
2012:R1: Yvan Muller (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze)
2011:R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Cruze); R2: Rob Huff (Chevrolet Cruze)
2010:R1: Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León); R2: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León)
2009:R1: Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT León); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
2008:R1: Rickard Rydell (SEAT León); R2: Tiago Monteiro (SEAT León)
2007:R1: Alain Menu (Chevrolet Lancetti); R2: Augusto Farfus (BMW 320)
2007, 2009, 2011, 2013:Porto
1:Vila Real played host to F3 single-seaters in the 1960s before sportscar racing came to the fore. Chris Craft and David Piper won a six-hour event in 1969 driving a Porsche 908.
2:During the 1980s touring car racing thrived at the circuit before a fatal accident in 1991 forced the authorities to intervene due safety concerns. Racing resumed on a shortened layout in 2007, with a revival meeting attended by Stirling Moss, who competed at Vila Real in period.
3:The name Vila Real (Royal Town) comes from King Denis of Portugal founding it in 1289.
4:Although Portuguese WTCC star Tiago Monteiro was born in nearby Porto, he had never raced at Vila Real prior to 2015 but has likened the track to a Macau/Nürburgring Nordschleife cross.
5:Monteiro’s Main Race win in 2016 helped him to a career-high third in the final WTCC table.
WHAT HAPPENED IN 2016?
Tiago Monteiro got his faltering season firmly back on track with an emotional home win. The erstwhile title leader had been on the back foot following exclusion in Morocco and a spectacular crash in Germany. But it all came good for the Honda ace on the challenging streets of Vila Real. Despite the race-long attentions of Citroën’s Yvan Muller, Monteiro, who started from the DHL pole, did not crack under pressure to win the Main Race from Muller and Honda team-mate Norbert Michelisz. In the Opening Race, privateer driver Tom Coronel scored his second victory of 2016 for ROAL Motorsport with Tom Chilton making it two independent WTCC Trophy drivers in the top two. Nicky Catsburg completed the podium for LADA as Sébastien Loeb Racing put the WTCC Teams’ Trophy beyond doubt thanks to Chilton and Mehdi Bennani’s strong performances. Rob Huff extended the Honda celebrations by winning the TAG Heuer Best Lap Trophy, the Briton setting a new lap record with a 1m58.385s best in the Main Race. Thed Björk, partnered at Polestar Cyan Racing by Robert Dahlgren for the first time, scored points in both races. World champion José María López bagged two fifths to maintain his push for a third crown.
Opening Race DHL Pole Position:Tom Coronel (Chevolet Cruze)
Main Race DHL Pole Position:Tiago Monteiro (Honda Civic WTCC)
TAG Heuer Best Lap:Rob Huff (Honda Civic WTCC), 1m58.385s (record)
WTCC MAC3 winner:Team Citroën