SEAT Sport targets victory in France Following Yvan Muller's pair of second-place finishes in Monza at the beginning of April, the SEAT Sport team heads for the next two races in the FIA World Touring Car Championship leading both the drivers'...
SEAT Sport targets victory in France
Following Yvan Muller's pair of second-place finishes in Monza at the beginning of April, the SEAT Sport team heads for the next two races in the FIA World Touring Car Championship leading both the drivers' and manufacturers' tables.
The Spanish team's hugely experienced driver line-up means that the races, at the 4.411km Magny-Cours circuit in France on April 30th, should again see a strong performance from the team despite the "success ballast" incurred by three of its six drivers. Yvan Muller will carry a total of 65kgs of ballast in France, while Gabriele Tarquini's car carries an extra 30kgs and the Leon of James Thompson will weigh an extra 20kgs. Jordi Gene, Rickard Rydell and Peter Terting will all have the extra 20kgs they carried at Monza removed, along with the majority of the WTCC contenders.
Rydell was fastest at the pre-season test session at the Magny-Cours circuit and so hopes are high that the Swedish driver will repeat the win he recorded at Silverstone last year. Terting and Gene also tasted victory during 2005 and so the team is confident of scoring its first win of 2006 from the two French races.
Following the hectic build-up to the first pair of races, most of the SEAT Sport drivers have enjoyed some well-earned time off since Monza. Rickard Rydell took his family on holiday to Mallorca, while Peter Terting moved home from Germany to a new apartment in Barcelona, close to the SEAT Sport team's headquarters.
The exception was James Thompson, who's competing in a limited programme for SEAT Sport UK in the British Touring Car Championship. James won the year's first two BTCC races at Brands Hatch, while his teammate Jason Plato won the third. As a result, James leads the drivers' series, with SEAT Sport UK leading the manufacturers' championship.
Gabriele Tarquini (car number 2): "Monza was really good for SEAT and I expect a lot more from Magny-Cours because top speed isn't as important there. I wasn't able to take part in the winter test because of the weather, but the others had a very good test and so I expect every car to be capable of qualifying and racing in the top ten. For both Yvan and me, it will be a lot harder because of the ballast but I'm very optimistic about the weekend. Magny-Cours might not be the best circuit for us, since acceleration out of the hairpin is important, but it'll still be a lot better than Monza."
Rickard Rydell (car number 3): "The car was very competitive at Monza and if we can be quick there, we can be quick anywhere. I have to say that I'm more confident after Monza than before. The winter test at Magny-Cours went very well and the circuit should suit us quite well. I was fastest in the test, but we can't really read much into that because the weather changed so much. I think we surprised a lot of people at Monza and not just in the races; we now clearly have a big presence in the paddock and I'm confident we can repeat that on the track."
Jordi Gene (car number 9): "I really like the circuit and I'm looking forward to the races there very much. It will be nice to confirm what we thought at the start of the year; that the car is capable of being good everywhere. If we are competitive at Magny-Cours we will be able to fight for the championship, so the weekend is very important. Having a good chassis is crucial at Magny-Cours and the Leon has an excellent chassis. There are better circuits for us, but I'm confident that we'll do well."
Peter Terting (car number 10): "I think we showed in Monza that we made a lot of improvements over the winter, but for me I think I had more than my share of bad luck. In Magny-Cours I'll be back to my usual speed, I hope. We had a good winter test there, I know the car and now I know the circuit -- last year, it was only my second race in the WTCC and so I expect a lot more there this year. Since Monza, I've moved to Barcelona and spent some time at SEAT Sport helping Jordi to shake down the cars. My next big challenge is learning Spanish!"
James Thompson (car number 11): "I'm looking forward to Magny-Cours very much, although the one downside will be the ballast. There are lots of changes of direction and so the extra weight will really hurt me. We're in good shape for some good results, though. The UK car is almost identical to the WTCC Leon; the main difference is the tyres, which takes a fair bit of getting used to. Competing in the two championships means that I'm very busy. I was at home for only five days in March, I'm racing on four weekends out of five and I still have a business to run but I wouldn't swap it for anything!"
Magny-Cours; a driver's eye view Yvan Muller (car number 12):
"I have to say that I don't really have a favourite circuit -- I like every one if I win there -- but of course Magny-Cours will be special as it's my home race. It has every sort of bend; fast corners, slow corners, long corners and corners that feature changes of direction midway through. It's a very technical circuit and has uphill and downhill sections, but that's bad news for me because my car will be so heavy with the ballast after Monza. Realistically, I don't think I can even get on the podium at Magny-Cours, but it should be good for the others -- particularly for Jordi, Rickard and Peter who are very light. For sure, they could win there.
"I can't really say where the good spectating areas are, since I've never been a spectator! It's quite a complicated circuit, but I know one of the best places for overtaking is at the end of the back straight, so that should be a good place to watch. Having said that, there is no one place that's better than any other at our level. Every corner is an opportunity if the driver ahead of you makes a mistake; you're always looking to pass and at Magny-Cours there are plenty of places where that's possible. At Monza there were sixteen cars within a second of each other, which gives an idea of just how close this championship is."