Fiat Linea to take to the race track in Argentina's toughest arena
The Fiat Linea is set to take to the race tracks this year with an officially supported two car team contesting Argentina's highly competitive TC2000 touring car championship pitting a full blown racing version of the sedan against a string of the Italian brand's key market rivals. This year's series gets underway in two week's time.
This bold new initiative is part of Fiat Auto Argentina's celebrations of 90 years of operations in this Latin American market. Also to denote this important milestone the first 90 units of the Fiat 500 that were recently introduced, came as a special individually numbered edition. The first Fiat's actually arrived in Argentina in 1900 when three examples of the 6 HP were brought in by the Mestrallet brothers. In 1919 an official importer company, Sociedad Anónima F.I.A.T. Turín - Sucursal Argentina, was set up to import and distribute automobiles (first off was the 4-cylinder model 501), marine engines, tractors, plows, trucks and motors.
The idea to pitch the Linea, which went on sale in Argentina last year, into battle in one of the world's most competitive and tough national touring car championships comes on top of plans unveiled at the end of last year to run an identical-specification race series for the Linea, dubbed the Fiat Linea Competizione, in Argentina to give young drivers the chance to develop their motor racing skills at the wheel of a Fiat product, the continuation of a long history of supporting grass roots racing in Latin America by the Italian manufacturer.
The two car team that will bid for glory in the TC2000 series this year will be run by the Pro Racing Team (Pro Competiton S.A.) based in Malagüeño in the outskirts of Villa Carlos Paz, Córdoba. Pro Racing Team is a highly respected Argentinean outfit that brings with it all the ingredients for on track success: it has won the TC2000 championship in three of the last five years [2004, 2006 and 2007] with Chevrolet. It also has five drivers' titles under its belt [1998, 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2007]. The team can also count championships in Formula Toyota in Japan and the South American Rally Championship. The name of the new team will be the Fiat ProRacing Team.
The Fiat ProRacing Team has chosen the experienced pilot Emiliano Spataro who has competed in 70 TC2000 races with two wins [in 2005 at Curitiba Buenos Aires, both in the VW Bora] alongside series newcomer last year Francisco Viel Bugliotti. Fiat's rivals in TC2000 this year will be Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Renault and Volkswagen, while Peugeot is also joining the series in 2009.
To celebrate the alliance between Fiat Auto Argentina and Pro Racing, Fiat's top executives Cristiano Rattazzi and Gerardo Bovone visited the team's workshops, while Pro Racing's President Nora Bugliotti visited the Fiat factory in Córdoba to explore ways of further strengthening the relationship. Rattazzi said he was delighted to see the Fiat name "returning to sporting competition in the most technological category in South America. After many years of not participating, Fiat returns to the race tracks with Fiat Linea and Emiliano Spataro and Francisco Bienne Bugliotti. A new product like the Linea with two leading pilots," he added.
“We know the challenges and want to enter the biggest competition in our country. For that reason we chose TC2000," said Bovone who went on to recall a long racing history for the Fiat brand in Argentina. He said the Linea would be following in the footsteps of the "saloon car and coupé 1500, the saloon car and coupé 1600, the 125, the Regatta and the Tempra." Nora Bugliotti indicated "we are very excited to be able to count on the confidence of a company of the size of Fiat. It's a great challenge for which we are preparing. Our three championships during the last to five years ratify it."
The Fiat ProRacing Team's chief engineer Alexander Venturi explains that the project is well advanced, with the firm's R&D department having worked on the construction of aerodynamic components. "The Linea is a modern car, with a very rigid and very symmetrical original structure," says Venturi. "This detail helps in the stages of construction and installation of all the components. In addition, the car has a very good 'cx' in all its lines." Venturi hasn't worked with either driver before: "Emiliano [Spataro] is a pilot who has won races and fought to a championship [in 2005]. By previous results he has demonstrated that he is very fast, has great desire to work and to win. We will take advantage of his experience in the development that we have ahead, as we have the objective of being successful with Fiat. Francisco [Viel Bugliotti] although he made his [TC2000] debut in the 200 km of Bs As in 2008 will have his first season in TC2000. We want to make sure that he fulfils the amount of kilometres necessary to adapt. He must in turn, gather experience and learn the methodology of working with Pro Racing."
Meanwhile support at the TC2000 race meetings this year will come from the Fiat Linea Competizione. During the weekend of the fourteenth and final round of last year's series back in December, Fiat Auto Argentina unveiled the prototype of the Fiat Linea Competizione, the new racing car which the brand will launch into action this month. A new division, known as Fiat Linea Competizione, has been formed and it will share race meetings with TC2000 during 2009. Rattazzi was in charge of driving duties during the Linea's first laps at the Punta del Este circuit when the season came to an end. The cars' preparation and all the logistics of the new division will be undertaken by the FS Motorsport firm. The presence of the Fiat Linea racing cars in this new division will be sponsored by well-known firms such as Petronás and its Selenia oils, Lo Jack, FTP Powertrain Technologies and Fiat Crédito.
Nieuws, uitslagen e.d. m.b.t. toerwagenraces.
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