Fiat Tipo driver Mariano Werner goes into this weekend’s ninth round of the Campeonato Argentino de Turismo Nacional at the top of the drivers’ championship standings in the C3 category having finally moved to the front thanks to a podium finish at the last round held at the Autódromo Provincia de La Pampa in August.
The reigning champion – he won the “C3” class title last year at the wheel of the now replaced Fiat Linea – has just a single point advantage over his closest rival, Honda Civic driver Leonel Adrian Pernia, and there are several more drivers breathing down their necks, as the hard-fought series enters the final third of the season – round nine of twelve take places this weekend at Rosario.
It’s been a mixed season for the Fiat Tipos, which are prepared and run by FP Racing, the company that also manages Argentina’s ‘one make’ series for these cars. They have shown a lot of promise but not always pulled out the results as the development continues apace.
The long season started back in February at Potrero de Los Funes in San Luis where Werner and team mate Marchesi Matías Muñoz kicked off their 2018 campaigns with last season’s title winning Fiat Linea racecars and Werner managed a P11 while Muñoz was eventually classified in P22.
On to La Pampa for Round 2 and Werner gave the brand new Tipo a stunning debut win, romping home with a comfortable 3.8 second advantage at the chequered flag while again Muñoz was out of luck. At the third round, held at La Plata, Muñoz however salvaged points and pride with a solid P8 while Werner’s title hopes took a nose dive after he retired at half distance.
It was back to winning ways with a bang and a spectacular 1-2 finish at Round 4, held at the Autódromo Parque Provincia del Neuquén, Werner leading home Muñoz with just seven tenths of a second between them and in fact the top three finishers were covered by only 1 second.
That win was another important victory in the successful touring car career of the 29-year-old from Paraná. Like most young drivers Werner rose through the karting ranks and on graduating to entry level single seaters he became Formula Renault Argentina champion in 2007.
That fired his career up and from 2008 to 2016 he drove in the highest echelon of touring car racing in Argentina, TC2000, and in fact had a year driving the Fiat Linea TC2000 in 2014 which netted sixth place in the final championship standings.
That season with Fiat followed on from six consecutive TC2000 seasons with Toyota, with a best result of being championship runner up in 2011. More recently he’s switched to the national touring car championship (Campeonato Argentino de Turismo Nacional) and won the “C3” division title with the Fiat Linea last year – and now he’s defending that title in the new Tipo.
After the win at La Pampa got his momentum in the championship really moving again Werner racked up more vital points with a fighting second place finish at the fifth round, which took the series cross border to the Concepcion de Uruguay circuit although the trip was fruitless for Muñoz as he eventually crossed the line three laps down.
The sixth round at Posadas saw the team somewhat deflated as neither car got into the points, Werner eventually coming home in P24 and 2 laps down while Muñoz was one place better in P23 and a lap down. Then it was on to the Terminas de Rio Honda circuit where Werner bounced back and grabbed more points with fifth place while Muñoz was classified down in P22.
The most recent round, held three weeks ago, took the touring car series back to the La Pampa circuit where the team had scored a superb 1-2 finish earlier in the season and clearly the Tipo revelled in this circuit, especially as the team was able to bounce off a pre-race test day at the circuit, Werner nabbing a podium visit with P3 after making up a place in the race following a poor start and in fact he was just 0.503 seconds adrift of the winner and the top five finishers were covered by 1 seconds after 24 laps of enthralling racing.
With Muñoz finishing sixth in the second Tipo it was a good weekend for FP Racing – and made even more so as the championship points leader going into the weekend, Perina, retired after 8 of the 24 laps which allowed Werner to take over the championship lead by just a single point!
"It was a great race, I congratulate the entire Fiat FP Racing team for the great work and for giving me a car that allowed us to have a good weekend, score good points and reach the top of the [points table],” said Werner afterwards. “We recovered our performance and we were in the fight again, I am very happy and now we will work with the kilos that will be added.”
Going into this weekend’s ninth round at Rosario, Werner has 167 points, one more than Honda driver Pernia (166 points). Then comes Ford Focus pilot Julian Santero on 159.5 points, and Citroen C4 driver Facundo Chapur 157.5 points. Also, still in with a shout at the title is Fabricio Pezzini who has 131.5 points while in the second Tipo Muñoz has 81 points and is in fourteenth place in the standings. Making things more complicated for Werner is that due to “success ballast” that has to be added, he will have the heaviest car on the track this weekend.
After this weekend three more rounds will still remain to be contested, at Rio Curato on 21 October, then at San Luis on 11 November and finally the long “Campeonato Argentino de Turismo Nacional 2018” season will wrap up at Viedma on 16 December.
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