Fiat back in the race action in Argentina's prestigious TC2000
A new era for Fiat on the race tracks of Argentina kicked off last weekend at the Autódromo Oscar Cabalén de Córdoba as the Fiat Linea run by the factory-supported Fiat Pro Racing Team took to the circuit for the first round of the 2009 TC2000 championship. The return of the Fiat brand to the top level TC2000 (Turismo Competición 2000) series comes just as the brand celebrates its 90th year in the Latin American nation.
TC2000, which is reserved for cars with 2.0-litre normally aspirated engines and places strict limits on the technology, such as outlawing anti-lock brakes, traction control and variable valve timing, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The TC2000 specification Linea has approximately 310 bhp which it feeds to the wheels through a six-speed Xtrac transmission and it weighs in at 1080 kgs.
Fiat has a strong history of racing in the TC2000 series and represented at its inception in 1979 with the 125 Coupé. That car ran in private hands until 1981 before from 1983-85 the Fiat 128 was the brand's contender. However Fiat's greatest success in TC2000 would come when Osvaldo Antelo split with Renault and began preparing a Fiat Regatta to be raced by Cocho López. In 1989 the new car achieved excellent results and in 1990 López claimed four wins (three consecutively) and three pole positions. This awakened the interest of Fiat and for 1991 an official team was formed with Hugo Olmi piloting a second car. However the competiveness failed to match the previous year and a switch to the Tempra in 1993 didn't improve matters before an off track tragedy in 1995 helped to seal Fiat's exit from the series. The Fiat Marea was raced by private teams between 1997 and 1999 before in 2004 Fiat returned officially to TC2000 with the Stilo. However a lack of meaningful results saw the Stilo programme (now in private hands) wrapped up by the end of 2006.
The Fiat team this year for the brand's heralded return to the series is being run by the ProRacing 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] all with Chevrolet. It also has claimed five drivers' titles [1998, 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2007] and will run this year under the name 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 and Buenos Aires, both in the VW Bora] alongside series newcomer last year Francisco Viel Bugliotti.
The first round of the 2009 TC2000 season took place at the Autódromo Oscar Cabalén de Córdoba last weekend with Fiat facing factory-supported opposition from Honda, Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Renault and Volkswagen, while Peugeot has also joined the series this year. The first test session got underway on 3rd April with a promising 6th fastest time for the #46 red-and-white Lo Jack sponsored Linea driven by Spataro (1:38.349: +2.920) with Bugliotti in the #47 posting the 15th quickest time after not getting a quick lap in. The first official free practice session on 4th April saw Spataro 9th 1:37.335 (+2.998) and Bugliotti 13th 1:37.820 (+3.403) while in the second session they were 25th and 29th respectively. The first of the three knock-out qualifying runs saw only Spataro (1:36.342; +1.667) progress to Q2, the experienced pilot scraping through in the 20th and final position, while Bugliotti, with the 24th quickest time (1:36.829; +2.154), was eliminated. In Q2 Spataro was placed 19th (1:37.194; +2.846).
The first of the double header races at the Autódromo Oscar Cabalén de Córdobaon on 5th April was the 12 lap (48.540 km) sprint race and both Lineas failed to complete the full number of laps with Spataro eventually classified 23rd (10 laps) and Bugliotti 27th (9 laps). In the main 50 minute feature race run over 48 laps for a distance of 113,260 km, again neither Linea reached the chequered flag with Bugliotti classified 18th, after completing 16 laps, and Spataro 25th, with his race ending after just 5 laps. Both races were won by Juan Manuel Silva (Honda Civic).
Although the two Fiat Lineas failed to claim decent finishes in either race due to mechanical issues it was nevertheless a very solid start to its new TC2000 championship campaign for the Fiat ProRacing Team and the lap times showed a great deal of promise for the rest of the campaign. The second appointment of the twelve-round TC2000 takes place on 19th April at Río Negro. Also taking place at Córdoba last weekend was the first round of the new 'Fiat Linea Competizione' grassroots one make series.
Nieuws, uitslagen e.d. m.b.t. toerwagenraces.
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