SEAT Sport Looks Ahead To The 2005 Season The WTCC; a new challenge for SEAT Sport SEAT Sport is a company with 140 employees, who focus exclusively on competition driving. In 2005, they will face the challenge of the newly created FIA World ...
SEAT Sport Looks Ahead To The 2005 Season
The WTCC; a new challenge for SEAT Sport SEAT Sport is a company with 140 employees, who focus exclusively on competition driving. In 2005, they will face the challenge of the newly created FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) and SEAT Sport's managing director, Jaime Puig, provides some insight into the expectations for the upcoming season.
SEAT Sport's merit for this championship became evident after the excellent string of results achieved last season, culminating with Rickard Rydell's victory at Oschersleben. What were your thoughts during that race?
"There were some terrifying moments, because after a few laps it seemed possible, but then it came down to the last four, three, two laps until finally he came in first over the line and we all broke out cheering. I have fond memories of all the people that believed in us and lent us their support. We clearly had a season filled with great satisfaction, but taking podiums and pole positions isn't the same as winning, and that's the main objective in any competition. The win at Oschersleben demonstrated the capacity of the entire SEAT Sport team, and stands for all the efforts put in, but at the same time signalled the first step toward more ambitious goals."
That brings us to SEAT Sport's current plans.
"We are going to concentrate on the WTCC, and then come the SEAT Cupra Challenges in different countries -- Spain, Germany, Turkey and the UK. Further priorities are the national championships, like the BTCC in the UK, and maintaining our level of customer service, to both Group N and GT and any other that arises during the season. SEAT Sport in Spain always lends assistance to importers that request help or technical support, but they are the ones who, depending on their capacity, must request what they need of us. I'm sure we will continue in Denmark and Finland, but we don't know what's going to happen in Sweden. The Supercopa is still linked with the organisational structure of the Spanish GT Championship, except one meeting that will be run alongside the WTCC in Valencia. We believe it is important, especially for the participants, to race at the same meeting as the World Championship. We may introduce a few changes to the sporting aspect, but we'll announce that when the time comes. 2005 will also be an important year for preparation work on the new models going into competition -- this year at the WTCC, and the new model in 2006 for the Supercopa challenges. That means a hectic development schedule for this year, with three projects going on at the same time -- the Toledo Cupra and two new models for different championships; one possibly for this year and another for 2006."
In the scope of the World Championship, SEAT Sport has always said that the European Championship (ETCC) was a three-year project, but after the first two years an unexpected leap has been made from European to World Championship.
"When faced with a three-year project, before it is over a decision has to be made regarding its continuation. This is our case, and we have already decided to continue participating in this Championship beyond 2005. For this reason we are working on a new car. We are sticking to the initial three-year project -- gathering experience in the first, chalking up points in the second, and winning races in the third. Perhaps we thought we'd have the new car at the beginning of 2005, and although that will have to wait, the Toledo Cupra may still give us great satisfaction if we manage to successfully introduce a few necessary improvements."
Could racing with the Toledo and preparing another model at the same time slow down one of the two, or produce a negative result?
"Not at all. We've taken that into account and prepared adequately, especially in the area of Development. Unforeseen events can always happen in the initial WTCC races that make us change our plans, but everything has been calculated and we feel we are ready for the challenge."
It seems difficult, however, to hope for a crack at the title with only three cars on the track.
"To be honest, it will be difficult for the Manufacturer's title. Don't forget our main rivals have four or even up to six practically official vehicles, besides a few fast private ones. With only three, it's clear from the start that we're outnumbered, at least in the Manufacturer's category, since the first two cars score, and we've only got half of what the others do. We're considering a team of semi-official cars, but not for the moment."
So what are your goals?
"Our 2005 objective is at least to place third again, like last year, but then there were three manufacturers and this year there will be six, so third place would be a good result if we're not too far from the first two in the Manufacturer's category. For the driver's category, our basic goal is to win more than one race and be high up on the general standings. Then everything will depend on how the Championship unfolds to determine whether we're satisfied or not, if we've exceeded our goals or just barely. It's not the same to finish third only 10 points from the winner as finish third but 100 points away."
Speaking of drivers, you've changed Frank Diefenbacher for Peter Terting.
"We believe that you have to make changes at times, especially with young drivers whose potential is not clear. For this reason we've recruited another young driver, and although I cannot deny we did talk with some of the Championship participants, in the end we decided to repeat what we'd done before and sign up a promising young driver."
Both the newest addition to the team, Peter Terting, who hails from the German Supercopa, and UK Cupra Championship driver Robert Huff, will be racing in the 2005 WTCC. What's your reaction to the fact that both these new factory drivers have come from Cupra Supercopas?
"This is the best thing that could have happened. The only two young drivers this year that have made it to an official team have come from the SEAT Supercopa. This confirms all the work we've done and our plans to create the most potent single-brand touring car competition in Europe. We've seen a lot of promising drivers at the different Supercopa events, including the one in Spain, and having two of them move into factory teams proves our plans are moving in the right direction."
Perhaps the greatest surprise for SEAT Sport in 2004 was the excellent result achieved in the UK, with Jason Plato finishing third and newcomer Robert Huff winning races in the prestigious BTCC.
"We are extremely pleased with these spectacular results. So much so, that now we have to set our sights on more ambitious goals. After finishing third, all we can do now is work towards a title win. There will be three official cars, all manufactured by SEAT Sport UK with a reinforced organisational structure, driven by Jason Plato, Luke Hines and James Pickford, winner of the 2004 Cupra Championship. The same can be said as for the WTCC -- the basic objective is a repeat performance, but everyone giving it their best. Then, depending on how the season shapes up, we'll evaluate whether the achievements justify the effort put in, regardless of the final result."