RFB WTCC - A review of 2007 and a preview of 2008
Racing For Belgium not only began a new era this season, but also closed one. The Bornem based team competed in its first ever WTCC, but in October on the track at Barcelona competed in its last meeting of the World Series by Renault Megane Trophy, a championship which the young Belgian Jan Heylen clinched in 2005.
However Racing For Belgium's Cup experience will not be lost seeing the team will be competing in the SEAT Leon EuroCup as from 2008, a single-make championship which will be held during the WTCC-weekends and in addition we will also be seeing Wim Coekelbergs' troops in action in the brand new Belgian Clio Cup. Apart from the touring car battles this season Racing For Belgium was also fully involved in both the Belcar GT3 and FIA GT3 with a brand-new Prodrive Aston Martin DBRS GT3.
Undoubtedly RFB's most eye catching campaign was their participation in the WTCC with an Alfa Romeo 156 driven by the young Portuguese Miguel Freitas. Notwithstanding the fact that there were some serious growing pains, Wim Coekelbergs is satisfied when looking back on the season: "2007 was a learning year for us, with a few good weekends interspersed with some less positive ones. Our car is a 2004 model and was therefore ideally suited to our schooling needs, but it goes without saying that in such a field as the WTCC such a handicap is not to be underestimated. Something I will always remember is the excellent work carried out by our team and some of the miracles they performed during the season."
Nonetheless Miguel Freitas drove a good race in Macau, finishing in a well deserved eight place in the Independents Trophy, and in the teams Racing For Belgium finished in sixth spot in the final ranking.
After the last race in the Megane Trophy there was just time to take stock.
Wim Coekelbergs: "Over these last three years the level of the Trophy has developed enormously. Leading figures have always competed, however the field has become very close knit and most teams are leaning towards the top. I personally had not driven the Megane for more than a year when I got behind the wheel in Barcelona, and I noticed it immediately. You need to clock up the necessary kilometres with such a car and I lacked those. Obviously the highlight was our European title with Jan Heylen back in 2005, a title that for Jan was a sort of re-launching of his career and where we simultaneously clinched the team title, the ultimate crowning for RFB."
For RFB this is not the end of the road in the one-make cup. Next season the Belgian team is heading towards the SEAT Leon EuroCup. Following on from several successful seasons in various national championships, the SEAT Leon Supercopa will be enjoying its European debut next year under a new name: the SEAT Leon EuroCup. The championship will be comprised out of six meetings with two sprint races which will be held during the six FIA WTCC- weekends on circuits in Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, England and Italy. In addition the winner at each meeting will be given an opportunity in the following WTCC-race.
"We are in fact hoping to be selected by Seat because apart from the fact that it will be a fantastic championship, for us it is a logical choice for two additional reasons", Coekelbergs explains. "In the first instance we know the series well, because we had been champions in 2005 and 2006 in Spain with Oscar Nogues, something not many Belgians know... So add Jan's title in 2005 and our previous experience in the Clio Cup and you then realise we are closely connected with one-make cups. Secondly we are remaining active in the WTCC and regarding logistics it is quite obviously the ideal choice.
"When it comes to the drivers this has not been decided as yet, but we would like to enter several cars in the EuroCup."
In addition RFB will be competing with at least three cars in the Renault Clio Cup. At the end of this year Renault Belgium is stopping the FR1600, but will remain present on the Belgian circuits with the brand-new Clio. Wim Coekelbergs: "For us this is a sort of rebirth. Up until 2004 we were battling it out up front in the Belgian Cup which then unfortunately disappeared, after which we still competed for a further year in The Netherlands. This season our in-house driver Philip Jacobs has already had the opportunity to become acquainted with the new cars in France and he was over the moon. So we're looking forward to the premier..."
Last but not least there was the campaign with the RFB Aston Martin DBRS9 straight out of the Prodrive workshops. Ron Marchal and Wim Coekelbergs clinched a few podia places on the European scene, not forgetting two in the Mediagroep van Dyck Belcar GT3.