A scorching San Marino for SEAT Sport
Run in searing temperatures, the two San Marino rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship saw SEAT Sport increase its points total, with Rickard Rydell, Peter Terting and Jason Plato all scoring points in the second of the two races.
Starting from 3rd on the grid, Jordi Gene was quickly embroiled in a bruising fight with several other cars, but his race ended on only the 2nd lap when the Toledo Cupra was hit by the Alfa Romeo of Augusto Farfus and then pushed off the track by Roberto Colciago's Honda.
The fight was no less damaging further back, with Peter Terting's car trailing pieces of the rear bodywork after an encounter on the opening lap. Terting had started from 17th on the grid after his engineers discovered an engine problem after qualifying and were forced to change the engine, resulting in a 10-place penalty.
Terting, Rickard Rydell and Jason Plato in the other SEAT Sport Toledos ran together for much of the 11 lap race, with an error from Rydell allowing his colleagues past on lap 6, although slight contact between Jason and Peter allowed Rickard to pass once again on the same lap. The gap to 8th placed Alex Zanardi was just too great, however, and the trio finished just outside the points.
Rickard Rydell (9th): "It's a shame -- I was quicker than Zanardi and I should have been able to pass him to be on pole for Race 2. I made a small mistake when I tried to pass him and both Jason and Peter passed me, but then Peter touched Jason and I was able to get past them again. To get onto the podium in Race 2 is really not possible, so I'll be happy if I can just score some points."
Peter Terting (10th): "The race was okay for me; the car was fast and I was obviously quicker than Rickard with his ballast, but it's always difficult to overtake a teammate and so I stayed behind, rather than risk a collision. Someone hit me from behind just after the start and broke the bodywork, but it wasn't a big problem. We're changing the set-up for Race 2 and so I'll see what I can do and try and get points."
Jason Plato (11th): "I'm disappointed, because we clearly showed the SEATs were quick, but we just couldn't get past. I was quicker than Rickard, but to be fair he was being held up; in all honesty, the move I'd have to make to get past him was really risky and so I held back rather than risk taking us both off. It's actually good for me to do a hot race like that, since we never get weather like this in England!"
Jordi Gene (DNF): "I had been pushed by someone in every corner, but I was catching Dirk Muller and trying to pass him when first Farfus hit me and then Colciago pushed me into the wall. It's very disappointing; they're always warning drivers about standards of driving and some of them still do what they want. As a result, a good position in Race 2 is unrealistic and so I'm very disappointed."
Another incident-packed 11 laps that again witnessed three of the four SEAT Sport cars running together for much of the race. Rickard Rydell carefully picked his way through the field, improving from his 9th place on the grid to 6th after lap 7, with a collision between Farfus and Zanardi on the last lap promoting Rydell to 4th place at the chequered flag.
Much of the drama came from Peter Terting and Jason Plato, who seemed to swap positions on every lap. In the end, the German driver finished 7th with Plato 8th; both drivers clearly suffering from the heat at the end of the race. As he'd predicted, Jordi Gene found that starting from the back of the grid was too much of an obstacle to overcome and, despite overtaking cars on almost every lap, the Spaniard finished a frustrated 14th.
In the Michelin Independents' Trophy, both races were won by Alessandro Balzan, driving the Toledo Cupra run by SEAT Sport Italy.
Rickard Rydell (4th): "We made a change to the set-up for Race 2 and it helped a lot; in fact, I wish Race 2 had been Race 1! This time I got a very good start and I passed quite a few people during the race before Farfus made a silly move on Zanardi right at the end, which meant I could finish fourth. I'm happy with P4, especially after such a hot weekend, and I'm also pleased that the success ballast system seems to be working."
Peter Terting (7th): "The start was good, but I lost a little time fighting with Jason. I would overtake him, then I'd make a mistake and he would pass me and so on. I'm happy with the two points for seventh place, of course, but overall I'm unhappy with the weekend -- particularly the engine problem that dropped me ten grid positions. Mexico will be a lot better, I'm sure."
Jason Plato (8th): "Again, a very hard race; probably the hottest race I've ever done. I have to be so careful around the other SEAT Sport cars; they're in the Championship while I'm not, although there's not much in it in terms of speed. It was so hot today -- unless you sit in a sauna for three days, you can't train for conditions like that. I have a fan in the car, but it's cooler if I don't use it -- I now know what a roast chicken feels like!"
Jordi Gene (14th): "It was okay -- it's very difficult to start from last place, after all -- but both Jorg Muller and I were passing about one car per lap and so I had some fun! I think I want to forget about Imola and look forward to Mexico now; I know we're fast in qualifying and I still have a good set of tyres I can use there and so I'm very positive about my chances at Puebla."
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Director: "Once again, we've shown that we can compete with and overtake the other teams and I'm very satisfied. Of course, the first race was disappointing, but I'm pleased with our performance in Race 2. As we say, this is real 'Auto Emocion'!"