By Patrick Rall
The Dodge name might be leaving the NASCAR ranks after this
season but the Chrysler Group is alive and well in the motorsports world with
the latest news coming from the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec
class – where a new Fiat 500 took home the 2012 championship.
For those unfamiliar with the Pirelli World Championship or
B-Spec racing, the various leagues are comprised of race cars based on actual
production (street legal) vehicles and new for 2012 is the Touring Car B-Spec (TCB) class. This new
group joins the GT, GTS and Touring Car TC) classes with vehicles including the
Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Mazda 2, Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, and Nissan
Versa making up this new group of near-stock racers.
Modifications to the TCB class are very strictly limited to
basic safety features including a race seat and a roll cage along with
performance enhancements limited to tires/rims, shocks and springs. In short, the TCB teams can make the cars
safe to race and improve their handling but in terms of the drivetrain – these vehicles
are identical to those models available in showrooms around the country. Mind you, we are not talking about the
upcoming Fiat 500 Turbo or the high performance 500 Abarth but rather, Smart’s
Fiat race car was based on a standard production 500 with the 1.4L MultiAir
4-cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.
The #00 Fiat 500 driven by Jonathon Smart had an incredible
season as the only Fiat in the field.
Smart and his black-and-red 500 was the only driver in the class to post
a top 5 finish at each and every one of the 9 races in 2012 – including two
victories at Miller Motorsports Park.
Smart ended up with 946 points on the season, allowing him a landslide
win over second place Craig Capaldi who had just 651 points.
Jonathan Smart’s championship win in the Touring Car B-Spec
class against some of the top compacts available in the US is a shining example
of the compact Fiat 500’s performance capabilities compared to other cars in
the class. I’ve driven all of the current
Fiat 500 variants and they are all a great deal of fun to drive and while some
people question how much fun the 500 can be – hopefully this championship helps
show skeptics the sporty aspect of this 38mpg compact.