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After SEAT's withdrawal, it's time for BMW and Chevrolet to lead the way.
The 2010 World Touring Car Championship gets underway at Curitiba on 7 March. Here is a team-by-team preview.

SR-Sport
SEAT Sport has withdrawn, leaving Sunred to run a team of diesel Leons for champion Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro, Jordi Gene and Independents Trophy champion Tom Coronel. Expect race wins for Tarquini and Coronel, with Tarquini able to challenge for the title. Monteiro and Gene will be regular point scorers and should challenge for podium finishes.

Zengo-Dension Team
Hungarian Leon Eurocup squad steps up to the big time running a diesel Leon for promising Eurocup champion Norbert Michelisz. He should challenge for the Independents Trophy and will score some regular overall points.

Chevrolet
Introduced the Cruze model last year, and after a year of development will be looking to win the title, particularly after the witdrawal of SEAT. Yvan Muller has replaced Nicola Larini, and is partnered by Rob Huff and Alain Menu. Muller and Huff start the season amongst the favourites, while Menu will take race wins.

BMW Team RBM
BMW have reduced their squad to one two-car team, with Racing Bart Mampaey responsible for the two cars. Andy Priaulx stays on and is joined by Augusto Farfus who moves across from Schnitzer. With the SEAT threat reduced, Priaulx will be looking to be amongst those challenging for the title, while for Farfus it will be his best chance to take the title, and will be looking to banish the disappointment of last year.

Liqui Moly Team Engstler
Franz Engstler
returns for another season, and has brought Andrei Romanov back to the team after a year out. Engstler will be looking to win the Independent's Trophy this year after some bad luck in 2009, and use reverse grids to challenge for overall podiums. Romanov must improve from a fairly poor 2008 season.

SUNRED Engineering
Sunred will run two diesel Leons for Danish and  ex-European champion Michel Nykjaer and Swiss driver Fredy Barth. Expect Nykjaer to challenge for the Independents Trophy and be on the pace with the cars run under the SR-Sport banner, although he will need to learn the tracks. Barth will be further to the back of the field.

bamboo-engineering
British Touring Car team moves to the world stage, taking its Chevrolet Lacettis and young driver Harry Vaulkhard with them. He will be partnered by Hong Kong Porsche driver Darryl O'Young. Vaulkhard showed promise in the European Touring Car Cup in 2009, but it will be a steep learning curve for both.

Wiechers-Sport
Wiechers have signed Moroccan Mehdi Bennani, probably the discovery of 2009 after making his debut at his home race for Exagon. He will need to adapt to the rear-wheel drive BMW 320si from the SEAT Leon, but will challenge the Independent establishment.

Colak Racing
Croatian Marin Colak impressed in his debut season last year, starting second on the grid in Germany. He is the only Leon driver with a petrol engine, putting him at a disadvantage against drivers like Barth. Will be looking for Independent podiums where possible.

Poulsen Motorsport
Kristian Poulsen
has split from Team Engstler for this year and will go it alone. He disappointed in 2009, his results not on the same standard as Engstler. He is still new to touring cars though, having moved from rallying in 2007. He will be looking for the occasional overall point, thanks to the new points system where points will be scored for a top 10 finish.

Scuderia Proteam Motorsport
Proteam brings back the line-up it had in 2008, with Stefano D'Aste being paired with Sergio Hernandez, back from a year with BMW Team Italy-Spain. Both will be looking to regain the Independents Trophy that they won in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Predicted Order
1. Rob Huff
2. Augusto Farfus
3. Yvan Muller
4. Andy Priaulx
5. Gabriele Tarquini
6. Tom Coronel
7. Alain Menu
8. Jordi Gene
9. Tiago Monteiro
10. Sergio Hernandez
11. Michel Nykjaer
12. Stefano D'Aste
13. Franz Engstler
14. Norbert Michelisz
15. Mehdi Bennani
16. Harry Vaulkhard
17. Marin Colak
18. Darryl O'Young
19. Fredy Barth
20. Andrei Romanov
21. Kristian Poulsen

Calendar
1. Race of Brazil - Curitba - March 7
2. Race of Mexico - Puebla - April 11
3. Race of Morocco - Marrakech - May 2
4. Race of Italy - Monza - May 23
5. Race of Belgium - Zolder - June 20
6. Race of Portugal - Algarve - July 4
7. Race of UK - Brands Hatch - July 18
8. Race of the Czech Republic - Brno - August 1
9. Race of Germany - Oschersleben - September 5
10. Race of Spain - Valencia - September 19
11. Race of Japan - Okayama - October 31
12. Race of Macau - Macau - November 21

Who do you think will win the WTCC in 2010? Tell me by leaving a comment below. Recieve WTCC news by following @Frontofthegrid on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Baptiste
 
 
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari has once again attacked the FIA and outgoing president Max Mosley in a column on its website.

The piece attacks the FIA's policy of encouraging new teams into the sport, following the struggles of Campos Meta and US F1 to make the starting grid in Bahrain on March 14. It also refers to hopeful entrants Stefan GP as 'Serbian vultures', who 'picked the bones of Toyota on its death bed'.

It criticises Mosley, saying the situation 'is the legacy of the holy war waged by the former FIA president'. "The cause in question was to allow smaller teams to get into Formula 1". The piece mentions the loss of BMW and Toyota, and the change of ownership at Renault.

I still struggle to understand the logic of Ferrari blaming Mosley for the departure of manufacturers, who cited the economic downturn for their withdrawal. Mosley tried to limit the damage done by the financial crisis by proposing a budget cap. Whether this was introduced in the correct manner or not is another matter.

The reason BMW and Toyota left was because Formula 1 was too expensive for them. New teams were invited to cushion the blow of manufacturers leaving, to ensure that grids kept their depth. Mosley tried to stop manufacturers leaving, but the team's association ignored his efforts, which led to the exit of BMW and Toyota.

The struggles of Campos and US F1 do highlight flaws in the selection process of new teams that allowed them to gain an entry without the necessary funding in place.

This is not the first time Ferrari have criticised Mosley's actions over the past year. However, every time, they fail to explain what exactly he did wrong. I would love to see what Luca di Montezemolo would have done differently, and whether he would have been able to do the impossible task of keeping underperforming car manufacturers, both on track and in the road car market, in the sport.

Photo credit: MEDEF
 
 
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Carabante (left) has taken full control from Campos (right)
Last night it was confirmed that the majority shareholder of the Campos Meta team, Jose Ramon Carabante, had taken full control of the team from founder Adrian Campos. Former Jordan, Midland, Spyker and Force India man Colin Kolles has taken Campos' role as Team Principal, and the position of Managing Director from Daniele Audetto.

Campos Meta began began as a partnership between Adrian Campos, former Grand Prix driver and boss of successful junior formula team Campos Racing, and Enrique Rodriguez, of Spanish sports management agency Meta Image. Carabante was brought in as a shareholder at a later date.

According to Kolles, in an interview with Adam Cooper, his role is "to clean up the chaos". While it sounds as though the management team of Campos and Audetto at Campos Racing's factory in Valencia have not done the best of jobs, the real question is based around Campos's partner, Meta Image. The team have obviously failed to find the necessary sponsorship, which would have been the priority of Meta Image at it's Madrid HQ.

I find it hard to believe that, even in the current economic situation, no Spanish firms are interested in getting their name onto the Formula One grid. Just take a look at the frenzied support for Fernando Alonso from the Spanish fans at the testing sessions at Valencia and Jerez. While they may be focused onto Ferrari, sponsored by Spanish financial giant Santander, they will be watching the races on TV throughout the season, and visiting the races at Barcelona and Valencia. They will see the Campos cars racing alongside the Ferraris. As a result of the Fernando Alonso effect, Spain is one of the best growing markets for F1 in the world. For a Spanish firm to have its name on the cars of the first Spanish Formula One team, one of which driven by the extremely marketable Bruno Senna, would be a perfect marketing opportunity in the new financially-aware era of motor racing. Or so you'd think. Meta Image will not come out of this well, certainly not in motorsport, where it manages Campos' Euro F3 Open champion, Bruno Mendez.

For the short term, Carabante and Kolles will fund the rescue mission as the team attempts to make it to Bahrain. The team still needs to sign a second driver to partner Senna. With the worrying silence from USF1, who now look certain to miss the start of the season, expect Jose Maria Lopez, the Argentine touring car champion who has funding from the country's government, to feature heavily in the speculation. Media in Argentina says that Lopez has been told by USF1's Peter Windsor that the team will not be in Bahrain. Reports suggest that Lopez and his management have been in discussions with Campos. Another driver who has been mentioned is Indian Karun Chandhok.

The team still has a lot of work to do to ensure they get to Bahrain with two cars, but Kolles insists they will get there. It's looking far more promising there than at USF1, with Serbian hopefuls Stefan GP ready and waiting, with Toyota's cars and Kazuki Nakajima as a driver, to step into the void should USF1 not be allowed to skip the first four races, as boss Ken Anderson has requested.

Photo Credit: Campos Meta
 
 
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Ken Block is raising the profile of rallying in America
I was originally going to save writing this piece for Rally Mexico, when there will be a lot of hype surrounding a new driver to the series (and no, it's not Kimi Raikkonen). However, today the World Rally Championship's promoter, North One Sport, will be presenting a proposed schedule of events to the WRC Commission.

I feel that the WRC calendar should reach all corners of the globe, racing in many different environments. I'm sure that this is also the goal of the promoter, expanding into new markets.

However, the 2010 calendar is not one that fills me with anticipation of the season ahead. In addition to great rallies such as Sweden, Finland and GB are trips to countries such as Mexico, Jordan and Turkey. Rally Bulgaria is the new addition to the calendar for 2010, although I can't help but ask why?

The main catalyst for this piece, as I said earlier, was the anticipation, from media and fans alike, surrounding the arrival of the USA's Ken Block to the WRC. His arrival is not anticipated because he will be fast. To begin with, I expect him to struggle as he gets his first taste of WRC-spec machinery, driving an M-Sport-prepared Ford Focus for the Monster World Rally Team, named after the energy drink, his personal sponsor. Block is an internet star, known for his stunt driving, which saw him appear on BBC's Top Gear last year. He has been competing in the Rally America series, against ex-motocross champion Travis Pastrana. Block and Pastrana have been expanding rallying in the States, thanks to their unique style, something that has not been seen in the WRC before. Colin McRae's Dirt video-game series has also helped to increase the profile of rallying stateside, featuring Block and Pastrana. This rise in popularity, I believe, means the WRC should be visiting the USA, rather than its neighbour Mexico.

Abu Dhabi has been putting money into the sport without even having an event, thanks to its backing of the Ford team and its driver, Khalid Al Qassimi. It is running as a candidate event this year and is expected to join the calendar soon. The WRC recently expanded to Jordan, but a visit to Abu Dhabi would be a far more profitable venture for the series.

The main casualty from the WRC's failed event-rotation system is Monte-Carlo, which is now part of the rival Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Like Formula One starting in Melbourne, I've grown up with the WRC starting its year with the Monte, and Eurosport's live coverage in 2010 showed the enthusiasm for the event from the fans and the media. The Monte Carlo rally should be part of the WRC.

So here is my proposed calendar:
1. Monte Carlo (January)
2. Sweden/Norway (February)
4. Ireland (February/March)
5. Abu Dhabi (March)
6. Argentina (April)
7. Portugal/Italy (May)
8. Greece (June)
9. USA (June)
10. Finland (August)
11. New Zealand/Australia (September)
12. Japan (September)
13. France/Germany (October)
14. Spain (October)
15. Great Britain (November)

Tell me what you think by leaving a comment below. Do you agree? Am I wrong? Do you live in the USA? Do you want a rally?

Photo Credit: Dez & John
 
 
Honda will return to the British Touring Car Championship in 2010, partnering Team Dynamics.

Honda UK today launched a limited edition of its Civic Type R road car, called the Mugen 200. In a press release they said that "the limited edition car also celebrate's the launch of Honda's BTCC team for 2010, continuing its long-standing relationship with Team Dynamics."

The release said that the team will race two Civics, which will sport a white and black livery. More details, such as driver lineup, are expected to be announced before the end of March, ahead of the start of the season on April 4.

Former BTCC champion Matt Neal tested one of the team's Civics at Rockingham last week. The car ran with new suspension, revised aerodynamics and new engine developments. The team is run by Neal's father Steve, with Matt expected to race for the team in 2010 following VX Racing's departure from the series.

Whether the team will be a full-works squad or not is yet to be revealed. Steve Neal had said in October that he was hoping to secure more backing from Honda, having lost title sponsor Halfords at the end of 2008. The promise of a semi-works Honda team is good news for the BTCC following the departure of the only manufacturer entry, Vauxhall, at the end of 2009. It is also speculated that Chevrolet could support RML with a semi-works BTCC effort in 2010.

Stay tuned for more on the subject by following @Frontofthegrid on Twitter.
 
 
The 2010 World Rally Championship gets underway with Rally Sweden on Thursday evening. Here is a preview of what lies ahead.

Citroen Total
Citroen retain their driver lineup of Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo. Loeb is the reigning six-time champion and will be looking to add number seven. Sordo is still chasing that elusive first victory. However quick on tarmac, he's not as quick as his teammate, although could have won in Spain last year if he had been allowed to. It may therefore be easier for him to win on gravel, when Loeb or Hirvonen have problems.

BP Ford
Ford retain the Finnish lineup of the ever-improving Mikko Hirvonen and the fast but inconsistent Jari-Matti Latvala. After running Loeb so close in 2009, the only aim for Hirvonen is to win the title. To do this he must be quicker, there is no other way. He needs to make sure he can continue his impressive finishing record at the same time. Latvala meanwhile needs to turn the flashes of speed into more consistent results, while supporting Hirvonen. Khalid Al-Qassimi will also be driving for the team once again.

Stobart Ford
The Ford B-team is made up of Matt Wilson and Henning Solberg. While Wilson is very consistent, regularly scoring points, he lacks the speed to challenge for podium finishes. Solberg scored two podiums finishes last year, and will be looking to continue the improvement on tarmac he showed last year. Marcus Gronholm will drive for the team in Sweden, and will be challenging for a podium.

Citroen Junior
Sebastien Ogier remains with the team for a second season, and is joined by F1-convert Kimi Raikkonen. Ogier's aim will be to add consistency to the speed he showed at times last year and give the big boys something else to worry about. It will be a steep learning curve for Raikkonen, who showed promise in a Super 2000 Abarth Fiat on his home event last year.

The rest
Munchi's Ford will return for another season with Federico Villagra at the helm, who scored two fourth-placed finishes in 2009. Petter Solberg has his hands on a Citroen C4 for his own team, and will be looking for regular podiums and to be able to challenge for wins in places. Young Norwegian Mads Ostberg takes the unusual approach of replacing his 2008 Subaru Impreza with an older model. US internet sensation Ken Block makes his WRC debut in the Monster Ford on Rally Mexico.

Support categories
2010 sees the addition of a new category to the WRC - the Super 2000 class, or S-WRC. Reigning J-WRC champion Martin Prokop, former P-WRC champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and ex-Citroen driver Xavi Pons will be amongst the favourites driving Ford's new S2000 Fiesta that will be used in the main category next year. In Skoda Fabias are Patrick Sandell and Eyvind Brynildson. Armindo Araujo will be attempting to retain his P-WRC crown, while a new crop of drivers will be attempting to take Prokop's J-WRC title.

Calendar
14 Feb - Sweden
7 Mar - Mexico
4 Apr - Jordan
18 Apr - Turkey
9 May - New Zealand
30 May - Portugal
10 Jul - Bulgaria
1 Aug - Finland
22 Aug - Germany
12 Sep - Japan
3 Oct - France
24 Oct - Spain
14 Nov - Great Britain

You can follow the action by following us on Twitter @Frontofthegrid. Click here to vote in our poll on who you think will win Rally Sweden.