WTCC set for first use of joker laps

WTCC’s planned joker lap

The Portuguese round of the World Touring Car Championship will feature a joker lap for the first time.

Added to the championship’s sporting regulations for this year, the joker lap will make its first appearance at the event in Vila Real later this month.

It will be the first time the concept has been used in WTCC competition after plans for it to be used at the season-opening Marrakech round was quashed due to circuit restrictions and government instability.

That meant a planned debut for the joker lap was delayed to June’s Vila Real round and WTCC promoter Francois Ribeiro said he was pleased to see it confirmed, pending a track inspection on June 21.

“The joker lap concept works very well in rallycross, and I’m certain it will bring an extra dimension to the WTCC street race in Vila Real,” he said.

“It will open up strategies for each WTCC driver, and might even change the course of the race.

“Of course we never compromise on safety so we have worked very closely with our colleagues at the FIA and with the authorities in Vila Real to put in place a route that matches our requirements but also conforms to all the rigorous safety standards.”

The joker lap will be located at the circuit’s final corner, Turn 26, and the route will take it away from the track’s roundabout section and through a tighter left/right sequence before rejoining the start/finish straight, with an expected time loss of two seconds.

It cannot be taken until the third lap of either race with drivers free to practice the route during the first two practice sessions.

Four-time WTCC champion and Polestar development driver Yvan Muller says the joker lap will “add something new” to the championship.

“It’s like the WTCC MAC3 (team time trial). Everyone said ‘ah, it’s a crazy thing’ and so on but it’s something new,” he said.

“And when it’s new and it shows something different, it’s always good.

“We have to try new things, to bring new positive and attractive elements.”

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