The first round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship roars into action this weekend with reigning world champion, Andy Priaulx, lining up on the grid at Monza to defend his title in a brand new race-prepared E90 BMW 320si.
Driving a BMW E46 3 Series in the last two race seasons Priaulx first won the European Touring Car Championship and then the inaugural World Touring Car Championship. Now driving the BMW 320si, the Guernsey-born racer has his work cut out in the forthcoming 10 rounds of the championship in order to make it three in a row. On Sunday he will be lining up on a 35-car grid alongside six other BMW 320si and five BMW 320i drivers plus rivals from Alfa Romeo, SEAT, Honda, Peugeot and Chevrolet.
Following the first round at Monza, the series then moves on to Magny Cours in France, before visiting Brands Hatch, Oschersleben in Germany, Puebla in Mexico and Brno in the Czech Republic. The final four events see the WTCC visit Istanbul in Turkey, Valencia in Spain, Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Macau.
The outcome of the first two rounds of the WTCC at Monza will be followed swiftly by four rounds of the Formula BMW Championship, the open-wheeled race series for young aspiring drivers first started in 2002. Two of these rounds are at Brands Hatch on 9 April with the following two being held at Mondello Park on 23 April.
A total of 10 two round race weekends comprise the Formula BMW Championship, the winner of which secures a test drive in a F3 race car. Two drivers who stand to benefit from some fatherly advice during the season are Greg and Leo Mansell, sons of 1992 Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell. The racing legend is to be an ambassador for the Formula BMW Championship while also overseeing his sonsé─˘ race careers.