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WTCC Heads To Monza For Race Of Italy

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The World Touring Car Championship Race of Italy takes place at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza this weekend. Sunday's two races around the Italian Grand Prix venue will form the third round of the 2011 season.

Monza holds a unique place in the history of the World Touring Car Championship, as it hosted the first ever event of the relaunched series back in 2005. It has been a regular fixture on the calendar since then, apart from 2009 when the Italian round of the series was held at Imola.

Chevrolet's Rob Huff leads the drivers' standings thanks to a win at each of the previous rounds in Brazil and Belgium. He was stopped from running into the distance though, when contact with Gabriele Tarquini dropped him down the field in Race 2 at Zolder. Huff's teammate Alain Menu sits just one point behind the Briton in second place having scored a pair of runners-up spots in Belgium to add to his Race 2 win from Brazil.

Tarquini's surprise victory for SUNRED in Belgium propelled him into third place in the standings, 19 points down on Huff. His chances at his home round this weekend could be boosted by the possibility of debuting the 1.6 litre engine in his Leon. Reigning champion Yvan Muller is still without a win in 2011 and a retirement in Race 2 in Belgium saw him drop to fourth in the standings, 22 points off Huff.

A point-less weekend for Tom Coronel at Zolder after his Race 1 crash was not what he had hoped for at his 'home' circuit in the WTCC. The ROAL Motorsport driver will again lead the BMW brigade in Monza and will hope the long straights play into the hands of the 320 TC.

There is just one change to the entry list from Zolder, with Ibrahim Okyay returning with the Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport team. The Turkish driver will fight with the fellow normally-aspirated BMW 320si of Fabio Fabiani towards the back of the pack.

Andy Priaulx and Muller won the two races at Monza last year, both benefiting from punctures suffered by the race leaders. Priaulx's win came in chaotic scenes at the end of the first race where both Tarquini and Huff suffered punctures while leading in the final part of the last lap, while Muller inherited the Race 2 win after Michel Nykjaer too suffered a puncture while leading. Muller has an impressive record in the Race of Italy, having won in each of the last four years.

After a test day held on Thursday there will be two free practice sessions on the Saturday morning ahead of qualifying in the afternoon. The two races are scheduled for 13:05 and 15:15 on Sunday respectively local time.

The WTCC races will come amongst a busy timetable at Monza this weekend, with Formula Renault 3.5 making a one-off appearance minus the rest of the World Series by Renault programme. Fellow single-seater series Auto GP makes its first appearance on the WTCC support bill, while the brand new European Production Series makes its debut. The Trofeo Maserati Gran Turismo completes the bill.

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Peter joined the TCF team in September 2010 and covers GP2 and GP3 along with WTCC and Formula Two. You can find him on twitter at @PeteAllen_
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