Tom Coronel shows SEAT potential Curitiba, March 7, 2010 - Eight place and a pole position. That was the result for Tom Coronel in the first race weekend of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the circuit in Curitiba, Brazil, where...
Tom Coronel shows SEAT potential
Curitiba, March 7, 2010 - Eight place and a pole position. That was the result for Tom Coronel in the first race weekend of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the circuit in Curitiba, Brazil, where he drove the SEAT Leon TDI for the first time. Unfortunately, the Dutchman wasn't able to benefit from his pole-position in the second race. He was hit on the opening lap and had to retire with a broken left rear wheel. Of course, Coronel was disappointed by his early retirement. "A podium finish was within reach." Nevertheless, a positive feeling prevails as he travels back home from Brazil. "The SEAT Leon TDI has plenty of potential, that much has become clear today once again."
"I always like being in Curitiba", says Tom Coronel. "It is nice to see everybody again after the winter break and to hear what everybody has been up to in the past couple of months. On top of that, the atmosphere in Curitiba is good and usually, the weather is nice there, although we had our fair share of rain this time round." A typical thing for Brazil is also the culinary culture in the so-called 'churrascarias', the steakhouses where the finest meat is being grilled in all kinds of varieties. "Too bad that the 'Grimpa' restaurant, which has become our favourite steakhouse in Curitiba over the years, was closed for refurbishment this year", says Coronel. "But fortunately, we have found a good alternative in 'Tropilha Grill'. The atmosphere wasn't as nice as 'Grimpa', but the meat tasted very well there, too. The same went for the Japanese restaurant where we went for dinner on Saturday, like in previous years. Such things are also important when you are in another part of the world." And indeed, the odd caipirinha was downed as well.
Everything perfectly organised
But of course, the emphasis was on racing during the season-opening WTCC event. "Beforehand, I was wondering how the team would be going about to handle seven cars, but Joan Orus had it all perfectly organised and the whole system is running smoothly", Coronel found out. For him, the weekend started off with the autograph session in the Curitiba city centre on Thursday, followed by an official reception by the mayor of the city. "In between, there were plenty of things to be organised at the circuit: stickers had to be cut to the right size and affixed to the car in the familiar colours of McGregor and TW Steel, pictures had to be taken, there were interview requests and the settings of the steering wheel, the seat and the pedals had to be adjusted to my preferences. The usual things before the first race of the season."
On-track action started on Friday. Coronel ended up eighth in the 30 minutes' test session. "This is a really nice toy", he smiled afterwards. "I didn't use any new tyres, but I am enjoying driving the car more and more." Two free practice sessions followed on Saturday, in which Coronel was classified tenth and seventh respectively. "The feeling is getting better and better", he reported. "This time, I did go out with new tyres. I have to get used to the different characteristics of the diesel compared to the petrol car. With this car, you have to make maximum use of the superior torque while accelerating out of the corners and that means that you have to turn in more carefully. That is a matter of gaining experience."
Slipstreaming in qualifying
In qualifying, the so-called 'slipstreaming' with team-mates driving behind each other to help achieve a quicker lap time, played its usual important role. "Before the session, we had determined by lot who would be the first to drive in front", said Coronel. "I was already happy when I pulled the highest number, but then the others told me that that meant I would be the first one to be pulled and that I then had to help the others. Like that, I didn't have any new tyres left at the end of the session when lap times were improving." Eventually, Coronel still only just ended up tenth in the first heat which allowed him to take part in the second session for the ten fastest drivers. In the second heat, he qualified ninth. "I am slightly disappointed, because it also could have been fifth, sixth or seventh. But on the other hand, I know what I have done to help the others and once I will get something back in return. Now, I am simply able to be in the top ten all by myself and that is a very good thing already, because then you are in contention for a good result."
Racing in the rain
In the first race, that was started from behind the safety-car as the track was soaked after a rain shower, Coronel showed clever driving. He ran as high as sixth for a while, but eventually made it home in eighth place, scoring his first four world championship points of the season. "I saw Gené coming up behind me very quickly and I let him past, so that he could battle it out with the BMWs. I certainly didn't want to take any unnecessary risks and I know that finishing eighth would allow me to start from pole-position for the second race." About the conditions, Coronel said: "After the rain shower, I had to drive very cautiously in the early stages, because I saw many cars going off, especially at the first corner. As the race continued, the racing line dried out and I tried to save my tyres."
In the second race, Coronel started from pole, but the race was virtually over for him after the opening lap, because he was hit on the left rear wheel by Chevrolet driver Rob Huff. That wheel broke off and Coronel went straight on into the gravel trap. He still managed to make it back into the pits where the team attempted to repair the damage, but after one more lap, it became clear that there was no point in trying to continue. Thus, Coronel had to retire. "Too bad as I really could have made it onto the podium", he said. "But the potential is clear and I am gaining more and more experience. So I am looking forward to the next race at Marrakesh!"
-source: tom coronel