Monza: SEAT Sport qualifying report

SEAT Leon TDI dominates WTCC qualifying with 1-2-3 at Monza SEAT has made history once again by becoming the first manufacturer to qualify on pole for a round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship with a diesel car. Not only that, fantastic...

SEAT Leon TDI dominates WTCC qualifying with 1-2-3 at Monza

SEAT has made history once again by becoming the first manufacturer to qualify on pole for a round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship with a diesel car. Not only that, fantastic team work saw Yvan Muller, Jordi Gene and Gabriele Tarquini qualify their SEAT Leon TDIs in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions -- totally dominating the qualifying session at the famous Monza race track in Italy.

The three diesel-powered SEAT Sport drivers held the top three positions throughout the 30 minute session. Initially Gabriele led the pack, ahead of Jordi and Yvan -- and with a 0.765 second gap back to James Thompson (Alfa Romeo) in 4th, the three Leon TDIs sat in the pit lane. But the plan was always to get Yvan, who is 3rd in the WTCC Drivers' standings, onto pole, and when Nicola Larini (Chevrolet) closed the gap to 0.274 seconds, the tyre warmers came off and the three Spanish cars returned to action.

Running flat-out within inches of each other to maximise the slipstreaming benefits, magnificent team work saw Yvan lap the high-speed 5.770km circuit in 1min 59.487sec (174.53kph), while Jordi also broke the 2min barrier with a 1min 59.887sec. Gabriele, who in the last six days has been to Japan (commentating on the F1 Grand Prix for Italian TV), Spain (testing the Leon TDI) and flown into Italy twice, showed no sign of jet-lagged to do his job perfectly to qualify 3rd.

Tiago Monteiro is using the 13:1 compression petrol engine for the first time and in doing so is carrying an extra 25kgs of regulation weight. He was the fastest official SEAT Sport driver in Free Practice 1, but had to move to the outside of the track at the critical turn-in point at Parabolica in Free Practice 2 (to avoid Jordi, who was slowed with a transmission problem). Tiago got onto the lose marbles and slid into the gravel trap, beaching the otherwise undamaged Leon. Despite the loss of track time, he recovered well to qualify 11th.

Oscar Nogues, the winner of the 2006 SEAT Supercopa series, did a fantastic job in his second WTCC meeting (having raced at Valencia last year) to qualify his SEAT Leon 14th out of 26 cars. Michel Jourdain Jr was 11th at one point, but a mistake ruined his best lap and he slipped to 21st by the end of the session. Tom Coronel, and the SEAT Netherlands powered by SEAT Sport official driver, qualified 15th.

Independents' Trophy leader Pierre-Yves Corthals (SEAT Belgium Leon) qualified 12th and 2nd in class, while Roberto Colciago (SEAT Sport Italia Leon) qualified 18th and 3rd in class, but will start from the back of the grid after receiving a 10 grid penalty for a racing incident involving himself and Alex Zanardi at Brands Hatch.

Driver quotes

Yvan Muller: (SEAT Leon nº12): "I'm particularly pleased to get pole, because I have been so close a few times this year. It was great SEAT team work. To look in the mirror and see six Leons behind you is really something. This is great payback to SEAT for the gamble the team took when we introduced the TDI in the middle of the season. The car is heavy and it is hard for the brakes, so the races will be another challenge."

Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon nº 11): "When I tested the Leon TDI I immediately saw the potential, especially for Monza, where you need torque to come out of the chicanes. The target today was to put Yvan on pole and this is what we have done. Monza is a track that suits front-wheel drive cars, and if the track temperature is not too hot tomorrow we should be able to race well."

Tiago Monteiro (SEAT Leon nº 18): "I have to congratulate SEAT on a fantastic one-two-three; it was a great team effort. For me, I had a difficult qualifying and didn't get a tow -- not a good tow that gives you a lot of time. I am the top non-diesel SEAT, but I'm not so happy about being eleventh. Tomorrow I'll put my head down and it will be maximum attack!"

Jordi Gene (SEAT Leon nº 9): "It's not so easy to slipstream and follow your team-mates so closely because one mistake, like hitting a kerb too hard, could ruin all of our laps. We practiced slipstreaming in the second free practice session and it worked perfectly in qualifying. The WTCC is very close and when you make a small improvement and do a very good job, it makes a big difference."

Michel Jourdain Jr (SEAT Leon nº10): "I made a mistake in one of the most complicated areas of the circuit and didn't qualify where I should have. Monza is a very complicated circuit, where you have to get everything right and today things have not been okay for me."

Oscar Nogues (SEAT Leon nº38): "I am very happy about the result. My principal objective today was not to make any mistakes and to fulfil the expectations of the team. Everything has been okay and I feel satisfied. Tomorrow I will try to get the best possible result I can and try to help my team-mates."

-credit: seat.es

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About this article
Series WTCC
Drivers Alex Zanardi , Tom Coronel , Tiago Monteiro , Yvan Muller , James Thompson , Gabriele Tarquini , Jordi Gene , Nicola Larini , Roberto Colciago , Pierre-Yves Corthals , Michel Jourdain