The World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) is an international racing championship organized by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The WTCC includes 10 races, and drivers are awarded points depending on how they place. After the last race, the driver with the most points wins the championship.
HowStuffWorks wanted to find out more about the WTCC, so we spoke to Brazilian driver Augusto Farfus. Farfus is an official driver for Alfa Romeo.
HowStuffWorks: Tell me a little bit about this racing tour. What are its origins, and how long has it existed?
Augusto Farfus: This is a brand new championship, born two years ago in Europe. It was in the beginning a European championship. From 2004, it began to be a world touring car championship. It's a quite simple championship, because to race the car must have four doors, two-liter engine, we don't care about how many cylinders it has, if it has four, five, or six cylinder. And the factory must produce minimum 10,000 cars a year…road cars. It must sell 10,000 cars, and that is all. The race formats are two races, about 30 minutes each, it's normally 50 [kilometers]. Between first race and second race there is 15 minutes to repair the car. And in the first eight drivers in the first race, the eighth becomes first and the first becomes eighth, and all of the rest of the grid stays the same ... The championship is 10 races ... six races in Europe and four outside of Europe. This race in Curitiba is the first race of this year outside of Europe. After Curitiba we go to Mexico, then we travel back to Europe, and then we have the two last races. One is Turkish, and the other one in China, in Macau. I think the important thing is that our car is a complete race car, where you use the name and the chassis of the road car, and the other parts we change [into] a real race car.
HSW: What are some of the ways that this event is different from other racing events?
AF: I think one of the best things that we have in the race that we use is the same car that you have in your garage. And the public, everybody who supports our race…they go to the track to support the same car as [they have in the] garage. And sometimes we see a guy who [supports] Alfa Romeo because his neighbor has a BMW so he wants to see his Alfa Romeo win... Another nice thing, the people, the public, are very near to the drivers and to the teams. So they are able to follow the drivers, the way that we drive, the way that they work on the car, because our pit and our box are open on Saturday or Sunday. We have two hours free. People walk, they take pictures, they talk with the drivers, so it's easier for normal people to understand the championship and the car and also to know the drivers, the teams. So they start to support us, because they see that everything is the same that they have at the home, or that we are not like Superman or something like that.
HSW: In the 10 races in the circuit, how do the tracks differ from one another? Are there easier ones and harder ones, or ones that people like the best?
AF: I think that the hardest race that we have is the last one in Macau, China, because it's a street track, it's a road track, a very fast one. That is the hardest race also because normally we decide the championship there. So it's a very easy track to crash, a very easy track to make a mistake, so that one is the worst track. All the tracks, normally, we race the same track as Formula One race, so we use the most famous track in Europe, also in the world. So the only strange race, the only different race is in Macau, so that is a very fun and different race.
HSW: Tell me a little bit about the kind of modifications that make these cars different from the ones in someone's garage.
AF: So, we have a racing gear box, a sequential gear box, six-speed gear box. We have racing brakes specially made for our kind of car…The engine, just to give you an example, my Alfa Romeo, the road car has around 150 horsepower. The car that I use to race, the car has 300 horsepower. But it's the same engine as the road car, so we just prepare the engine, we just modify the engine [to produce] 300 horsepower. So, the car is much faster than a road car. But the chassis and the body of the car are the same as the road car.
HSW: What does it take for the car and driver to make it to this championship?
AF: The first 20 cars on the grid, the first 20 places, [are] just official cars ... We have to become official drivers to race in the championship. There is another 10 cars that are semi-official teams, that you just can drive if you are an official driver or a factory support driver.
HSW: What does it take to win the race?
AF: You have to push. You have to drive the limit from beginning to end, and it's a very close race. It's nearly impossible to win a race with a big gap. We always fight from the first lap to the last lap, also because our races are quite short. We have just 30 minutes of race, so we don't have time to make a strategy, no time to decide what we will have to do with your mate, so we normally just start and push from the first lap until the last one.
HSW How do you prepare yourself for the race?
AF: I training a lot, also because our car is really hot inside. Normally we have 60 Celsius degrees (140 degrees Fahrenheit) inside the car. I [train] a lot, also I [work out in the] gym. It's very important to keep fit, and if you are fit you are able to keep your concentration, you are able to manage all [of] the race, because you are ready to do what you want with the car. Just training a lot, like biking, run, we just prepare like another sport.
HSW: Do your teams train together, or does everybody train separately?
AF: No, depends. Like, now [we're] getting people to the race here, so maybe tonight we will all go run together, but everybody trains alone because nobody lives in the same city.
HSW; What kind of inspections take place on the car before the race starts?
AF: Depends. Normally the easiest one is the weight control. So we have a place that all cars come, [and] they check the weight of the car. I want to tell you, the maximum weight is [1,140] kilos, and that is with the driver. Sometimes they check the engine, sometimes they check everything that they have to check.
HSW: In reading the rules, I notice that there are some limits on how many tires and engines a car can use in the race.
AF: We ... are able to change the engine every race. And also we are able to use 12 tires each event... The front tires and the rear tires are the same size, so we are able to use 12 front tires or 12 rear tires, or three sets of tires. They don't care where you put the new tires. You just have ... 12 tires to use during the weekend.
HSW: Why is there a limit on the number?
AF: They give the tires to you, and they control it every time you go to the track.
HSW: What kind of safety procedures do you all use during the race?
AF: We have roll bar inside of the car, you know like most racing cars have, and we use ... fire proofing ... we use all the same things that Formula One drivers use, because our safety rules are the same as Formula One.
HSW: I also read a little about weight handicaps. How does that affect the race?
AF: [We start with] the same weight balance for all the cars. When you've won a race, you get 30 kilos ... if you arrive second you get 20 kilos, if you arrive third, you get 10 kilos. And in this way, if you win a lot, you gain much more handicap -- weight balance. [It's] the only way that a championship found to keep a fight at a very high level. Otherwise we have like in Formula One, for example, [some teams can be better because] they build a better car. So with our championship it is impossible because ... with 70 kilos you are not able to win. So it depends how many points you get, and when you win the race, and then you have handicap for the next event.
HSW: How many people does it take to support you and the car during the race?
AF: During a race weekend, there [are] around 35 people, and in Europe, in the factory, there [are] around 70 people working to do 3 cars. Because in my team, in Alfa Romeo official team, there [are] three cars.
HSW: How do you communicate with the rest of your team, or the rest of the people who are supporting you, during the race?
AF: By radio.
HSW: What kind of ceremonies are there to recognize the winners of a race?
AF: We have [the ceremony at the] podium, and then normally at the end of the weekend we have a party, but normally some drivers fly or drive back home after the race. So we have the podium with champagne and trophy after the race.
To learn more about the World Touring Car Championship, check out the official site at http://www.fiawtcc.com/.