SEAT Sport secures first WTCC trophy
After two incident-packed races around Macau's narrow street circuit, SEAT's Vice-President in charge of Research and Development, Dr. Winfried Burgert, was able to lift the glass trophy confirming the Spanish team's third place in the 2005 FIA World Touring Car Championship.
SEAT Sport was also the only team with a 100% finishing record over the two races, as a string of collisions with the safety barriers forced many drivers to end their season with a ride in a recovery truck.
After Friday's qualifying session had to be red-flagged on four occasions, there was only one suspension of Race 1 after Jorg Muller and Robert Huff collided on the opening lap. Unfortunately, Tom Coronel's SEAT Toledo Cupra was unable to avoid hitting Muller's BMW and the Dutch driver's challenge for the Michelin Trophy for Independent drivers ended there and then.
Starting from 6th on the grid after Gabriele Tarquini's Alfa Romeo was withdrawn, Rickard Rydell made a superb start and had made up 2 places by the time the red flags came out. After the restart, Rydell immediately climbed a further place to 3rd and then held off a determined challenge from Dirk Muller over the remaining 8 laps to claim yet another podium finish for SEAT Sport. Despite his gloomy predictions after qualifying, Peter Terting drove a stunning race to climb from 20th on the grid to finish 8th and so claim pole position for Race 2. The team's only disappointment came on the 2nd lap after the restart, when the gearshift linkage on Jordi Gene's car broke, forcing the Spanish driver into the pits. He eventually finished 18th.
Rickard Rydell (3rd): "I'm very pleased with my car and the set-up; this is only my second race meeting in the Leon and the team has done a fantastic job in getting my car to be so competitive so quickly. The car is really quick in the corners around the back of the circuit, but we're losing a lot of time on the straights. I'm backing off just before the twisty part, then really pushing and that tactic worked well. My aim now is to finish in the top four, which will give me fourth in the Drivers' Championship."
Peter Terting (8th): "That was quite a good race, I guess! I was fast, but I just couldn't overtake anywhere. I tried to force others to make mistakes -- sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I'm on pole now for the final race, which is very important here because it's so difficult to pass. I certainly have the confidence, but I have to drive very carefully; it will be very tough to win, I think."
Jordi Gene (18th): "I'm really not very lucky this weekend, but how many times have I said that this year? The car is performing well, as you can see from Rickard and Peter, and I would have been up there with them if it wasn't for the gear linkage problem. If there are no accidents in Race 2, I don't really think I can do anything but Macau is like no other circuit and, as we've just seen, anything is possible here."
Jordi Gene was quickly proved correct, as Race 2 saw a string of accidents and the deployment of the safety car. Jordi carefully avoided all the incidents, carving his way through the field to lie in 8th position before the safety car came out and then climbing another 2 places over the final few laps to finish 6th and so secure 11th place in the WTCC Drivers' Championship. Rickard Rydell's thoughts of 4th place in the Drivers' series were dashed even before the start lights had even gone out. Rickard was judged to have jumped the start and the resulting drive-through penalty dropped the Swede to the back of the field. The safety car period at least meant he could catch the pack and Rydell would eventually finish 8th, but the single point wasn't enough and so he finishes 6th in the Drivers' Championship standings at the end of the season.
Peter Terting started from pole position, but was passed by the BMW of Duncan Huisman early on the opening lap. The young German driver then battled to repeat Rydell's podium result throughout the race, but cement dust at the Lisboa corner after the incident in race 1 caught him out and he eventually settled for 7th place, which means that Peter finishes 12th in the Drivers' standings, 1 point behind Jordi.
Jordi Gene (6th): "After everything, I actually had a good second race, which just shows how well I could have done; I could easily have been eighth in Race 1 and so got another podium in Race 2. My weekend has been like my entire season, if I'm honest -- the potential is there, but the consistency lets me down. I should have scored better in so many races. We need a little more speed in the straights and then the consistency will come and we won't have to take so many risks in overtaking."
Peter Terting (7th): "My start was okay, but Huisman got past me. I was consistently quicker in the middle section, but there was nowhere to overtake and I was losing out on the straights. The restart after the safety car was good; I had two aims -- not to lose the car in front and to defend from Farfus. Unfortunately, under braking for Lisboa, Larini went off on the dust and I clipped the barrier on the exit. I'm angry with myself -- I was seventh, but I could have been fourth. Still, it was my first time here and next year I'll definitely do better."
Rickard Rydell (8th): "I can't complain about the penalty; I was rolling slightly because the start was delayed a little and so I'm happy to finish sixth in the Drivers' Championship. Of course, I could have been fourth with a better result, but it just shows how close everything was. It's been quite a tough year and the team has done a great job keeping the Toledo competitive while developing the Leon."
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Director: "We had a good first race, especially with Rickard finishing on the podium, while the second race was a lot more difficult and we responded well to the different challenges. I'm delighted at what SEAT Sport was able to achieve during the first season of the WTCC; all three of our drivers tasted victory, in the second half of the year we've successfully changed from the Toledo Cupra to the new Leon and, most important of all, we showed that SEAT is able to compete with the best Touring Car teams and drivers in the world. We are already looking forward to an exciting and rewarding 2006 season."