ETCC: Imola: SEAT Sport race notes

Italy turns up the heat on SEAT Sport Both the qualifying and race days have been dry, sunny and very warm, with air temperatures of around 30 degrees Celcius on both days. Race 1 Starting from 4th place on the grid, Jordi Gene was the only ...

Italy turns up the heat on SEAT Sport

Both the qualifying and race days have been dry, sunny and very warm, with air temperatures of around 30 degrees Celcius on both days.

Race 1 Starting from 4th place on the grid, Jordi Gene was the only driver able to live with the three Alfa Romeos for much of the race, but running within half a second of Augusto Farfus Jnr. for lap after lap meant that the Toledo's brakes weren't being cooled sufficiently and they faded completely in the race's closing stages. Gene was able to hold off the challenge from Andy Priaulx's BMW to hang onto 4th position, but was unlucky not to have overtaken Farfus to claim yet another podium finish for SEAT Sport.

Rickard Rydell and Frank Diefenbacher were less fortunate. Rydell was fighting with Antonio Garcia's BMW for 8th place - and pole position for Race 2 - when Rickard touched a pile of tyres marking the inside of the chicane, damaging the car's steering. The incident dropped Rydell to 11th place and so ended any chance of a podium for the Swede. Diefenbacher started from 12th place on the grid, but a mysterious lack of grip from his tyres, combined with a damaged exhaust that robbed his engine of power, meant that the young German driver would finish a frustrated 17th.

Jordi Gene: "It was a very good race for me, but I ran out of brakes about three laps from the end. If that hadn't happened, I know I could have been third, but as it was I was lucky to hold off Priaulx and hang onto fourth. I'm very positive about Race 2, but I haven't been very lucky in second races this season and I have some quick guys all around me, so I'm not going to make any predictions!"

Rickard Rydell: "I was in ninth place, which is the first loser, so I knew I had to get eighth if I was to stand any chance in Race 2. Garcia was holding me up and I knew my best chance was to pass him at the chicane, but I touched the tyres and damaged the steering. It was completely my fault and I'm really disappointed. I've lost any chance of a good result and all I can hope for now is to try and get some points."

Frank Diefenbacher: "I don't know what happened. I had four new tyres, but there was no grip at all and I was locking up every time I braked; that's never happened before. I don't know what happened with the exhaust, although it may have been when Zanardi hit me. He was very unfair; I could see him coming up behind me, but he made no effort to pass me. He hit me and I lost 3 places."

Race 2 Once again an all-Alfa Romeo top 3, but both Jordi Gene and Rickard Rydell were involved in the fight for 4th place with Dirk Muller's BMW. Despite the SEAT Sport engineers changing the brake pads and discs on Gene's Toledo Cupra before the race, Jordi wasn't happy with his brakes throughout the race and suspected air had got into the system. In the end, Gene finished 5th and Rydell climbed from his 11th place start to finish 6th, the Swede still cursing his mistake during Race 1, although both were more than happy with their performance. Like Rydell, Frank Diefenbacher also fared better in Race 2.

Starting from 17th on the grid, Frank had managed to climb up to 10th by the time the safety car came out at the end of lap 4, following an incident involving Alex Zanardi, Salvatore Tavano and Stefano D'Aste. Three laps later, the SEAT Altea safety car pulled in and Frank immediately made up another place. Ninth was where he finished; Diefenbacher only too aware that his earlier tyre problems had put paid to any realistic chance of scoring any points.

Jordi Gene: "I've picked up some good points this weekend and I don't think we could have been any better than fourth, so I'm very pleased with fourth and fifth. My only problem was the brakes once again; I could take half a second or so off Dirk Muller each lap, but I was completely unable to out-brake him. Still, there are four races left and perhaps the Alfas will go back to normal so I will be able to catch Farfus in the points!"

Rickard Rydell: "The car felt really good at the beginning and I was able to overtake a few people at the start, although some were more by luck! We definitely had the pace to finish third or fourth as Jordi showed in Race 1, but you have to qualify well to get onto the podium and so I'm really pleased to have started from 11th and finished 6th. Alfa were a lot quicker than we'd expected; they seem to have found the speed they had at Monza and Valencia again."

Frank Diefenbacher: "From all the way back on the grid, it's very difficult to get any kind of good result. I made up two places at the start, but I had the same kind of grip problems that I've had all weekend and the engine also felt down on power. I didn't really get the chance to overtake as a result, so I had to rely on the others to make mistakes. I'm disappointed, not because we didn't win here, but because I'd been quick in both practice sessions and warm-up, but not in qualifying and the two races." Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Motorsport & Technical Director: "I think we have a great deal to be positive about this weekend. I have to be honest and say that the pace of the Alfas was a big surprise to us, but we finished as the best of the non-Alfas in Race 1 when Jordi was the only one of our drivers to have a clean run, and in Race 2 we were fighting with the Championship leader. In two weeks' time, I think Oschersleben will see the position change regarding the Alfas and so we'll see what happens there."

-seat-

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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Antonio Garcia , Dirk Müller , Alex Zanardi , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Rickard Rydell , Jordi Gene , Salvatore Tavano , Jaime Puig