World Touring Car Championship Comes to Sonoma

The FIA World Touring Car Championship will bring its furious fender-banging style of competition to American soil for the first time in 2012 with a Sept. 23 event scheduled for Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway.

The WTCC, one of the four World Championships ruled by the Federation International de l’Automobile, features the best in touring car racing with models such as BMW, Chevrolet, SEAT and Volvo. There were 12 events on the 2011 calendar across Europe, South America and Asia.

But the WTCC has never visited the United States. That will change in 2012 as Infineon Raceway hosts the WTCC, Sept. 21-23, on its 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. The WTCC has a three-year agreement with the Sonoma Valley facility (2012-2014). Support races for the 2012 race weekend will be announced at a later date.

“We are obviously extremely happy to bring WTCC to the United States for the first time," said WTCC promoter Marcello Lotti. “The event at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway will mark another milestone for our World Championship, opening a window on one of the most important markets for car manufacturers, which could also motivate other brands to join the championship. As for the track itself, I believe its layout suits touring cars perfectly, which should provide American fans with a couple of exciting races."

The addition of WTCC gives Infineon Raceway one of the most diverse schedules in the country, featuring the best in stock-car racing (NASCAR Sprint Cup Series); drag racing (NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series); open-wheel racing (IZOD IndyCar® Series); motorcycles, historic car racing and more.

The September race weekend in Sonoma will be highlighted by two 30-minute WTCC sprint races on Sunday, Sept. 23, that will include plenty of action. With just 30 minutes in each race, drivers will make active use of their fenders to reach the front of the field.

Steve Page, president and general manager of Infineon Raceway, said that while this will be a new form of motor-racing for Americans, he expects the WTCC will quickly gain fans based on the constant fender-to-fender action in back-to-back sprint races.

“The first time I saw these cars race, I knew they belonged on our track," said Page, who attended the WTCC event in Valencia, Spain, over the summer. “From the moment the green flag drops, the whole field is in a flat-out sprint for the lead. It’s going to be quite a show."

France’s Yvan Muller holds the WTCC record with 20 career victories since the series’ inception in 2005. He is also the defending WTCC champion and tops the 2011 points standings with just two races left on the schedule (China, Macau).

The weekend will also provide Infineon Raceway with a global audience as the races will be broadcast on Eurosport, which reaches 123 million homes across 59 countries, and the TV feed will also be distributed to 78 channels worldwide.

“The World Touring Cars will be new to this country, but it is the kind of adrenaline-fueled competition American race fans flock to and I have no doubt it will quickly grow a strong audience," said Page. “We can’t wait."

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