The Vila Real “Joker”

With the Portugese round of the FIA WTCC just two weeks away, the championship has revealed a world first for circuit racing: a rallycross-style joker lap. Designed to add a element of strategy and uncertainty to the tight streets of Vila Real, the joker lap comes from the world of Rallycross, where the drivers must choose the optimal moment to take once a longer route around the track. Choosing the right timing can be the difference between losing or winning a heat in Rallycross, and it will be the same for the WTCC grid which will be race-deciding around the Vila Real Circuit.

 

“It’s great to try new ideas, new options to spice up the show. When you are in pole position you don’t really want the ‘joker’ lap because you don’t want to lose your lead. But if you are not on pole position then there is a new opportunity to overtake.” - Tiago Monteiro

The new addition to the track will take drivers round the outside of the last turn on the circuit, Turn 26. Instead of the usual right-left sequence around the roundabout the drivers will go around the other side of the roundabout in a tighter left-right sequence that will add an additional 2 seconds to a drivers laptime which will hand pursuing drivers ample opportunity to overtake. However, no driver may use their joker lap until the third lap of the race, but they will have time to get familiar with the alternative layout during Free Practice 1 and 2 on Saturday (June 24th).

“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. 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.” - Yvan Muller

Eurosport will also carry special graphics so viewers can keep track of who has taken the joker lap, and the Joker layout will carry special branding on the circuit. WTCC drivers and teams will be hard at work plotting strategies around the Joker lap ahead of the 2 races in the late afternoon on Sunday June 25th.

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