The European Secret

2012 FIA World Touring Car Championship

Article by: John R. Andres/SMM Editor-in-Chief

Images by: Randy Jones/SMM Staff Photographer, Nate Jacobson & J.R. Andres

SONOMA, CALIF.—Secrets, like promises, are hard to keep, especially when everyone in the racing communities of Great Britain, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Turkey, Morocco, Japan, Brazil, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic, Belgium, Macau and Hungary have known about something and swore to keep it their secret for nearly twenty five years. As a result, the FIA WTCC almost seemed destined to remain in the clutches of other continents on the periphery of North America. After all, who in this country, the land of large cars and loud mega displacement motors would be interested in another racing series consisting of four-door, 1.6 liter four cylinder econoboxes that appear to be more adept at grocery-getting than true balls-to-the-wall road racing for a mere 15 laps? Sure, there were a few “Ultimate Driving Machines” in the bunch but Chevy Cruzes, Ford Focuses and Spanish bred SEAT Leons? You’ve got to be kidding.

Yeah…I’ve heard unsubstantiated stories whispered about the popularity of this brand of racing in those countries mentioned above. Maybe it’s a NASCAR “Junior” kind of thing and they’re merely substituting mini-cars for real cars because they don’t have the real deal like we do. It’s said that 40 million, that’s 40 MILLION fans are glued to their sets on nearly 80 channels worldwide each and every time these cars roll out on to the track. They say you can’t argue with success. It’s hard to believe but maybe there is something to all of this.

I still wasn’t convinced when I arrived early Friday morning on the paddock. The cars looked as good as any four-door could look with the colorful body wraps shouting out the names of their sponsors. The “Sea/Land” shipping containers the cars and parts came in were neatly lined up and the teams were busily readying their cars for practice and qualifying. I was standing in front of one of the SEAT Leons when I heard the greeting; “Buongiorno…California is beautiful”. I looked up and it was Gabriele Tarquini the driver of the #3 SEAT entry. Lattes, cappuccinos and espressos for everyone!!! Did someone just teleport me to Italy? It was almost like being seated at a coffee bar next to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. At this point I realized something was different. It wasn’t NASCAR because the accents and speech inflections were different. It wasn’t INDYCAR because the drivers were sociable and accommodating. It sure wasn’t NHRA because the motors were barely discernible when they were idling almost up to the point where they met their redline.

All of this came into focus when Federation Internationale de l’Automobile representative and WTCC spokesperson, Fabio Ravaioli, explained in detail how the weekend was to unfold later that same morning. Within a very short period of time, it became abundantly clear that this FIA sanctioned event, yes the same FIA that sanctions F1, was going to be run with the precision of a Heuer stopwatch. Nothing loosey-goosey allowed here. They came a long way not just to play but to play hard.

As the cars set foot upon Sonoma’s twisty road course, one had to be immediately impressed with the tenacity and the controlled abandon these drivers exhibited as they entered and exited every turn. They weren’t afraid to mix things up. Practice and qualifying is one thing but once the races began, I was sure it was going to be carnage and mayhem. Sort of like a cross between drifting, bumper cars and a county fair demolition derby. Now this whole thing is really beginning to make some sense.

It made sense to others too, judging by the number of fans entering the front gate. These numbers steadily increased as the weekend wore on with nearly 15,000 in attendance on Sunday. Not a bad turnout for a brand of racing that has never taken place in the U.S. before. By the end of the second race, people were clamoring for more. The mix of WTCC cars, Auto-GP and Maserati GT entries provided an enjoyable weekend with enough variety and diversity to satisfy even the highest ranks of racing aficionados. It was an international affair with just enough Chevrolet and apple pie to make things meaningful and interesting to Americans weaned on largess, noise, cappuccinos and speed.

2012 FIA-World Touring Car Championship
Race 1 — Provisional Classification (9-22-12)
1Yvan MullerFRAChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1323:34.369133.41
2Robert HuffGBRChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1323:34.933133.36
3Norbert MicheliszHUNBMW 320 TC1323:39.813132.90
4Gabriele TarquiniITASEAT Leon WTCC1323:43.216132.58
5Alex MacDowallGBRChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1323:46.172132.31
6Tiago MonteiroPRTSR Leon 1.6T1323:46.791132.25
7Franz EngstlerDEUBMW 320 TC1323:50.076131.94
8Tom CoronelNLDBMW 320 TC1323:50.710131.89
9Stefano D’AsteITABMW 320 TC1323:51.673131.80
10Tom BoardmanGBRSEAT Leon WTCC1324:00.192131.02
11Mohdi BennaniMARBMW 320 TC1324:04.683130.61
12Tom ChiltonGBRFORD Focus S2000 TC1324:08.757130.24
13Robb HollandUSAChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1324:14.461129.73
14Darryl O’YoungHKGSEAT Leon WTCC1324:20.553129.19
15Charlos NgHKGBMW 320 TC1324:22.233129.04
16Popo OriolaESPSEAT Leon WTCC1018.26.132131.22
17James NashGBRFORD Focus S2000 TC916:44.674130.02
18Alain MenuCHEChevrolet Cruze 1.6T924:24.87889.17
Fastest Laps—Yvan Muller, 83.44 mph (134.29 kph)/Norbert Michelisz, 83.26mph (133.99kph)
2012 FIA-World Touring Car Championship
Race 2 — Provisional Classification (9-23-12)
1Robert HuffGBRChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1529:19.176123.76
2Norbert MicheliszHUNBMW 320 TC1529:19.496123.74
3Gabriele TarquiniITASEAT Leon WTCC1529:20.375123.68
4Alain MenuCHEChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1529:22.894123.50
5Tom CoronelNLDBMW 320 TC1529:26.747123.23
6Tiago MonteiroPRTSR Leon 1.6T1529:27.383123.19
7Alex MacDowallGBRChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1529:31.858122.88
8Tom BoardmanGBRSEAT Leon WTCC1529:33.023122.80
9Stefano D’AsteITABMW 320 TC1529:33.396122.77
10Franz EngstlerDEUBMW 320 TC1529:34.819122.67
11Popo OriolaESPSEAT Leon WTCC1529:37.987122.45
12Darryl O’YoungHKGSEAT Leon WTCC1529:40.832122.28
13Alberto CerquiITABMW 320 TC1529:41.173122.23
14Yvan MullerFRAChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1529:42.643122.13
15Tom ChiltonGBRFORD Focus S2000 TC1529:43.495122.07
16Robb HollandUSAChevrolet Cruze 1.6T1529:44.360122.02
17Jamos NashGBRFORD Focus S2000 TC1529:49.806121.64
18Aleksei DudukaloRUSSEAT Leon WTCC1530:00.733120.91
Fastest Laps—Yvan Muller, 83.72mph (134.73kph)/Norbert Michelisz, 83.56mph (134.47kph)
AUTO-GP World Series Results
Race 1 — Classification (9-22-12)
1Pal VarhaugNORVirtuosi UK35:20.70421143.73
2Daniel DeJongNLDManor MP Motorsport35:22.18521143.63
3Sergey SirotkinRUSEuronova Racing35:23.76621143.52
4 Sergio CampanaITAZele Racing35:24.89421143.45
5Giacomo RicciITAMLR 7135:33.57921142.86
6Giancarto SerenelliVENOmbra Racing35:44.82821142.11
7Kotaro SakaraiJPNEuronova Racing35:52.14621141.63
8Antonio SpavoneITAOmbra Racing36:09.39921140.50
9Pippa MannGBRCampos Racing36:21.40921139.73
10Michele La RosaITAMLR 7136:23.68321139.58
Fastest Lap—Daniel DeJong, 101.60mph (163.83kph)

AUTO-GP World Series Results
Race 2 — Classification (9-23-12)
1Sergey SirotkinRUSEuronova Racing33:12.87921152.95
2Adrian Quaife-HobbsGBRSupernova International33:16.15121152.70
3Sergio CampanaITAZele Racing33:31.49421151.53
4Antonio SpavoneITAOmbra Racing33:41.57421150.78
5Pal VarhaugNORVirtuosi UK33:43.61021150.63
6Daniel DeJongNLDManor MP Motorsport33:44.20121150.58
7Max SnegirevRUSCampos Racing33:50.92421150.08
8Pippa MannGBRCampos Racing34:25.64321147.56
9Francesco DraconeITAVirtuosi UK34:25.97121147.54
10Michele La RosaITAMLR 7134:35.98421146.83
11Giacomo RicciITA MLR 7123:22.78714144.86
12Antonio PizzoniaBRAZele Racing18:53.63211140.84
Fastest Lap—Daniel DeJong, 102.85mph (165.52kph)
Maserati Gran Turisimo
Top Ten/Race 1 — Classification (9-22-12)
1Alex PopowVENMaserati GT31:16.46916123.76
2Riccardo RagazziITAMaserati GT31:16.94916123.73
3Andrea DromedariITAMaserati GT31:17.58216123.69
4Felipe MerjechCOLMaserati GT31:19.68216123.55
5Mike HedlundUSAMaserati GT31:20.35816123.51
6Patrick DempseyUSAMaserati GT31:21.09416123.46
7Fabio VenierCHEMaserati GT31:22.58616123.36
8Justino AzcarateVENMaserati GT31:23.93716123.27
9Giuseppe FascicoloITAMaserati GT31:24.28116123.25
10Per NielsenDNKMaserati GT32:53.04016117.70
Fastest Laps—Renaud Kuppens, 85.15mph (137.04kph)/Riccardo Ragazzi, 84.63mph (136.21kph)
Maserati Gran Turisimo
Top Ten/Race 2 — Classification (9-23-12)
1Renaud KuppensBELMaserati GT30:05.56117136.66
2Giorgio SernagiottoITA Maserati GT30:06.22617136.61
3Johannes VanoverbeekUSAMaserati GT30:12.56417136.13
4Alan SimoniITAMaserati GT30:14.62317135.98
5Max PigoliCHEMaserati GT30:17.46217135.77
6Alex PopowVENMaserati GT30:18.75517135.67
7Richard DennyAUSMaserati GT30:35.31717134.45
8Felipe MerjechCOLMaserati GT30:35.73717134.41
9Mathijs BakkerNLDMaserati GT30:36.32117134.37
10Greg TracyUSAMaserati GT30:47.09717133.59
Fastest Laps—Renaud Kuppens, 85.80mph (138.08kph)/Giorgio Sernagiotto, 85.74mph (137.99kph)


Klay Thompson Named Grand Marshal
of GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. (Sept. 13, 2017) – Golden State Warriors All-Star Klay Thompson has been named Grand Marshal of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series season finale at Sonoma Raceway, Sept. 15-17.

Thompson, a shooting guard for the reigning NBA Champions, was selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft by Golden State with the 11th overall pick. In 2014, he and teammate Stephen Curry set a then-NBA record of 484 combined three-pointers in a season, earning the pair the nickname the "Splash Brothers". 

Thompson is a three-time NBA All-Star and a two-time All-NBA Third Team honoree. In 2015, he helped lead the Warriors to their first NBA Championship since 1975. Thompson then helped the Warriors return to the NBA Finals for a third straight year in 2017, winning his second NBA Championship.

In his role as Grand Marshal of the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Thompson will take part in pre-race activities on Sunday, Sept. 17, give the official command of, "Drivers, Start Your Engines" and wave the green flag. Thompson will also enjoy a high-speed lap around the road course with racing legend Mario Andretti in a two-seat Indy car. This will mark his first visit to a motorsports event.

“I am beyond excited to be Grand Marshal for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma,” said Thompson. “I have heard so many good things about this race, and I can’t wait to see everything up close in person.”

Thompson is extremely active with Warriors community outreach programs and has been recognized off the court for his efforts in the community. He received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for November 2014 and the Alvin Attles Community Impact Award in April 2015 in recognition of his efforts to make a positive impact on the lives of underserved youth in the Bay Area.

“Klay is a core member of one of the greatest sports teams in Bay Area history. He's a true champion and we're excited he will be with us to help crown the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion this Sunday,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager.

For more information or to purchase tickets for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, including preferred parking, garage access, pit and pre-race passes, visit or call 800-870-7223. Kids 12 and under are admitted FREE all weekend and parking is FREE.


GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Verizon IndyCar Series Season Finale

WHEN: Sept. 15-17
CIRCUIT: 12-turn, 2.38-mile road course
2016 WINNER: Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske)
INFORMATION: 800-870-RACE (7223),
SOCIAL MEDIA: @RaceSonoma; #GoProGP

Napa Auto Parts

Recaro Seats

2017 Major Events
At Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival
June 2-4

Toyota/Save Mart 350
NASCAR Weekend
June 23-25

NHRA Division 7 drag races, presented by Korbel 
July 21-23

Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals
July 28-30

MotoAmerica Series presents the Championship
at Sonoma Raceway

Aug. 11-13

GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Sept. 15-17

Classic Sports Racing Group
Charity Challenge

Sept. 29-Oct. 1

Nascar Green

Ebay Motors

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