Okayama, 1st November 2009. Andy Priaulx (GB) and Augusto Farfus (BR) scored wins for BMW in rounds 21 and 22 of the FIA World Touring Car Championship. Both races in Okayama (JP) were held in the wet, and Priaulx claimed victory for BMW Team UK in the first one. BMW Team Germany’s Jörg Müller (DE) made it a one-two, finishing second ahead of Chevrolet driver Robert Huff (GB). In race two the BMW 320si WTCC cars again dominated proceedings in the rain, when Farfus made perfect use of pole position to score his fifth win of the season. Priaulx increased his points’ tally of the weekend to 18 by coming second. Third-placed Yvan Muller (FR/SEAT) joined the two BMW drivers on the podium. For BMW these were the fifth and sixth one-twos of the year.
In the Drivers’ Championship Farfus successfully reduced the gap to the front-runners. He has 102 points and lies 11 points in arrears of Muller, while his points’ gap to leader Gabriele Tarquini (IT/SEAT) is 13. Also in the Manufacturers’ Championship the title will only be decided in the season finale, which is staged in Macau (CN) on 22nd November. With 286 points BMW is just three points adrift of SEAT.
The weather forecast for Sunday said rain – and this prediction turned out to be perfectly correct. Shortly before the start of race one heavy rain set in. The Race Director therefore opted for a start under safety-car conditions. After two laps the race finally got underway. How difficult conditions at the 3.703-kilometre track really were was proved as early as the opening lap. Tarquini had an off-track moment and dropped back, moments later Farfus suffered the same misfortune at the same place. Hernández was involved in an accident and was forced to retire after only a few metres. Priaulx, on the other hand, took over the lead from Tarquini and, together with Müller, quickly opened up a gap on the rest of the field.
Farfus fought hard for his chance to secure at least one point and pole position for race two by making it to eighth. One lap after another he improved his position, with conditions slightly improving over the course of the race. On the last lap he finally got past Chevrolet’s Alain Menu (CH), shortly afterwards crossing the line in eighth. Zanardi was on his way into the top-ten, when he spun following a collision and dropped from 12th to 18th. Ultimately the 43-year-old had to make do with finishing 15th. At the front Müller increased the pressure on Priaulx in the final phase of the race. But the triple world champion successfully defended his position and finished 0.484 seconds ahead of his fellow BMW driver.
The drivers again faced slippery and wet conditions in race two. Farfus got off well from pole position and kept the lead. Behind him several collisions and off-track moments happened. Müller was also involved in this. He had improved to second at the start, but then slipped out into the gravel and hit another car in the process. The German received a drive-through penalty for this incident on lap 9. Priaulx, however, made an excellent start, kept out of all the trouble and shot from eighth to second.
While Zanardi dropped to the back of the field his team-mate Hernández worked his way up from 26th on the grid. His chase came to a halt in 12th. Müller finished 17th, while Zanardi took the chequered flag in 18th. Despite the difficult conditions neither Farfus nor Priaulx committed a single mistake at the front, bringing home the second BMW one-two of the day. After 14 laps the two drivers were separated by 0.761 seconds.
Augusto Farfus (BMW Team Germany):
“We had a good start to the weekend and looked really strong in dry conditions. The rain, however, made it all a bit more complicated. That’s why I’m really happy now that I scored another win and that BMW was able to reduce the gap in the manufacturers’ standings. We are in the middle of the title fight when we go to Macau. In the first race I unfortunately made a mistake in turn 2, which cost me dearly. Race two went according to plan, although it was really difficult out there. As the leader you are always the first hitting standing water or aquaplaning.”
Andy Priaulx (BMW Team UK):
“The first race was tough. There was standing water in turn 2, and it was far from easy to keep the car on the track. When Gabriele Tarquini went off after the start, I almost followed him into the gravel. But all went well. Jörg Müller drove a strong race behind me, and he was always in my mirrors. Had the race been one lap longer, he might have overtaken me. The fight was good fun, but I must admit I was happy when it was over. Making it to the podium in race two again is just great. It’s nice to see how competitive we are towards the end of the season.”
Jörg Müller (BMW Team Germany):
“I was hit hard right at the start of race one. I was afraid that my car had been damaged. But for once I was lucky and was able to go on pushing. For the entire race I was driving in the spray from Andy Priaulx, so the visibility was poor. On the final laps I saw my chance to pass him, but I couldn’t get by. Race two was virtually over for me after the accident at the start.”
Alessandro Zanardi (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
“My disappointment at this – at least for our team – frustrating weekend could be bigger as it became clear quite early on that we would have problems here. In the first corner someone bumped into me, but even without this incident my speed would not have been good enough to make it into the points. My car was clearly better in the second race, but still not good enough.”
Sergio Hernández (BMW Team Italy-Spain):
“I’m disappointed with my weekend. At no point were we as quick as we had hoped to be. At least BMW is now back in the title fight. With a bit of luck Augusto can make it in Macau. I will support him, wherever I can.”