INDEPENDENTS TROPHY: Coronel targets world title for SEAT
The final two rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship will decide not only the Drivers' and Manufacturers' WTCC titles, but also the Michelin Trophy for Independent drivers. Tom Coronel - driving a SEAT Toledo Cupra run by the GR Asia team and SEAT Holland - is currently in 3rd place in the series and, following qualifying, is in a strong position to challenge for the title in tomorrow's two 9 lap races around the narrow and demanding Macau street circuit. 17 points separate Coronel from series leader Marc Hennerici, but with double points on offer in both races, the Dutchman is confident of being able to catch the BMW driver. In total, 5 drivers have a mathematical chance of taking the title, with Coronel, Hennerici and Giuseppe Ciro the most likely contenders. Qualifying saw Tom use his experience of Macau to great effect.
His Toledo will start Race 1 from 13th on the grid -- effectively, pole position for the Michelin Independents Trophy -- with Ciro 14th after qualifying 0.175 second slower than Coronel and Hennerici back in 26th place after lapping over 4 seconds off the SEAT's pace.
Tom Coronel: "I have to say that I'm really confident; I only have one job and that's to win both races. Two things are important, I think; Hennerici being off the pace and the fact that this is my sixth time in Macau. I was leading the Formula Three race when I crashed and I've led the Touring Car race and crashed, so I've learnt a lot. Macau is not a regular circuit and you need lots of luck -- that's why there are so many casinos here! The car is good in steering and braking and good over the bumps and if you trust the car 100%, it's all down to you. I won the European Independents' title last year and to come second this year wouldn't be right."
Paul Ridgway, Technical Director GR Asia: "I can't think of a better bloke to try to win -- he's a class act! Quite frankly, I think Tom can get into the top eight overall. He clearly has the pace, he just didn't get a real chance in qualifying. Even though the team has come 5000 miles from the UK, GR Asia is actually a Hong Kong-based company so you could say that this is our local race! We have lots of supporters here from Holland, Hong Kong, the UK and even from New York. Tom has immense experience of competing here in Macau; it's a circuit where you have to attack and that's just his style."
Jaime Puig, Director SEAT Sport: "We are delighted that Tom is in such a strong position to challenge for the title. Regardless of what happens, we'd like Tom to remain in a SEAT for next year's WTCC and he will be the number one priority to be in a Leon after the six factory drivers we announced last week. He has done a fantastic job for us all season and is a great ambassador for SEAT; as well as being a great driver, his personality reflects totally the SEAT attitude and mentality. We all wish him the best of luck tomorrow." Round 19 begins at 12.05 on Sunday, with Round 20 at 13.20 (local time).