BMW Team Italy-Spain is to take part in a three-day test at the new Portimao circuit in Portugal later this week as preparations continue for the 2009 World Touring Car Championship season.

Alex Zanardi and new team-mate Sergio Hernandez will both hit the track at the wheel of their BMW 320sis from Thursday as the team works hard to get up to speed before its cars are loaded into containers for the long trip to Brazil for the season opener at Curitiba.

Team boss Roberto Ravaglia admitted that the test will be vital ahead of the 2009 campaign, when BMW will look to reclaim the titles it lost to SEAT last year, with the former racer stating he was confident that a strong season will lie ahead.

"We start the 2009 season with the usual enthusiasm and determination and we will be on track on Thursday 15 January at Portimao in Portugal for three testing days," he said. "It is reasonable to expect that new regulations will make WTCC even more interesting from a sportive viewpoint by reducing the difference between petrol engines and diesel ones.

"I am pretty confident on the competitiveness of our BMW 320si and of our drivers."

Ravaglia added that the addition of Independent champion Hernandez to the line-up would give the team extra motivation to succeed, with the former GP2 ace having been called in to replace Felix Porteiro.

"Zanardi is about to start his sixth complete season with BMW Team Italy-Spain and he is a precious reference point for the whole team," he said. "The arrival of Sergio Hernandez, winner of the Independents Trophy in 2008, gives us further motivations: he proved to be fast and I am certain that he will feel comfortable with the role of official driver too."



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