Much trepidation over WTCC’s first USA visit. Would we be subjected to another European export that can’t survive the crossing, a steaming helping of tripes a la mode de Caen — the chance to watch old men grinding the tires off of a gaggle of front-drive shit-box SEAT Leons that Americans have likely never even heard of?
Sunday, a surprisingly large and enthusiastic crowd turned-up at the raceway in Sonoma to see what it was all about — and the racing was quite entertaining. I had to scratch my head about the made-for-television format of two 13 lappers with lots of dead-time before, between, and after, but the open grid for pre-race festivities and plenty of tradin’ paint appeared to keep the youthful throng happy enough.
In this age we’ve become accustomed to their short attention spans — sailing’s America’s Cup World Series was on San Francisco Bay earlier in the month, and Cup defender tech-billionaire Larry Ellison exchanged traditional blue blazer yachting’s endless hours of tacking duels for an explosion of fixed-wing catamarans contesting a series of brief high-tech dinghy races.
The micro-burst races of the WTCC follow a similar tack in attempting to present our old-school sport to an X-Games audience. WTCC’s sprint-race format has the advantage of keeping the field from stringing-out, while the reverse grid assures that there is plenty of action during the brief moments during which millennial attention-spans can accept stimulation. It’s all over before the next round of Tweets can come through.
Of course, I can’t imagine that the tires of a front-driver would hold-up to any more than the required 13 tours, so it works out rather well for teams trying to compete in cars employing on this unfortunate layout. The speeds, handling, and size of the WTCC cars is quite well-suited to the Sonoma circuit. Real racing, real teams, real drivers, well presented and organized.
If the shotgun wedding of ALMS and GrandAm can be interpreted as evidence that the manufacturers are heading back to racing what they really sell, this series presents a fine showcase for the sort of car that the newly-pauperized 99-Percent are actually buying today. Why, even Morse showed-up in a press-fleet Kia Forte rather than his accustomed Panamera Hybrid or Bentley Flying Spur.
David Soares, October 2012