ANNOUNCED AT THE PRESENTATION OF THE NEW LEON SUPERCOPA
Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini and James Thompson strengthen SEAT in the 2006 FIA WTCC At the presentation of the new Leon Supercopa at the Circuit de Catalunya today, SEAT announced its plans for the 2006 FIA World Touring Car Championship in which it will have a powerful team of six drivers racing in the new Leon. Three experienced professionals, Yvan Muller (France), Gabriele Tarquini (Italy) and James Thompson (Great Britain), will join Jordi Gene (Spain), Rickard Rydell (Sweden) and Peter Terting (Germany) as official SEAT drivers, making one of the strongest teams in the 2006 FIA WTCC.
Their technical and sporting contribution will be of high value for the team as each driver brings with them experience and quality in competition, car set-up and development as SEAT challenges for the Manufacturers' title and the pilots aim for the Drivers' title.
Jaime Puig, Director of SEAT Sport, said: "The introduction of Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini and James Thompson will permit us to form a team with the same dimensions as our main competitors. Their experience in touring car racing will be an important strengthening for us after the first phase of development of the new Leon WTCC culminated with victory by Jordi Gene in Valencia. We are very optimistic that the 2006 season should see SEAT consolidate its aspirations and fight for the FIA World Touring Car Championship."
The 2006 FIA WTCC, which starts at the Italian circuit of Monza on April 2, will have at least seven manufacturers officially participating, plus another two that will possibly compete semi-officially. This makes the FIA WTCC an important series for manufacturers, only surpassed in numbers by Formula 1.
With races taking place on three Continents, this authentic World Championship will be one of the main attractions of the 2006 season. SEAT will participate in the world's top touring car championship for the fourth successive year and with the new Leon it expects to surpass the magnificent results of the 2005 season in which it obtained three victories - two of them at the circuits of Silverstone and Puebla with the Toledo Cupra and the spectacular victory with the Leon in only its third race meeting at Valencia.
The profile of the three new SEAT Sport drivers are:
Date of birth: 16/08/69
Place of birth: Illzach
The French driver returns to SEAT having already participated in the ETCC in 2003 with the Toledo Cupra at two races. He has a lot of racing experience, having won the 1993 F3000 European Championship and raced touring cars in France, Italy and Great Britain - becoming the British Touring Car Champion in 2003 by beating James Thompson in the last race of the year. In 2005 he raced in the BTCC, finishing second.
Date of birth: 02/03/62
Place of birth: Giulianova, Teramo
Gabriele Tarquini is one of the world's most experienced drivers, having driven in 38 Formula 1 Grands Prix - with sixth place his best result. After this he changed to touring cars, participating in many championships and gaining much experience in the likes of the Italian Championship and the German DTM. He won the British Touring Car Championship in 1994 and the European Touring Car Championship in 2003 with six victories. In 2005 Gabriele won two rounds of the FIA WTCC.
Date of birth: 29/04/74
Place of birth: York
A touring car specialist, James Thompson has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, winning 28 races and two titles in 2002 and 2004. Since 2003 he has also raced in the European Touring Car Championship, winning two races. He is a driver who adapts very quickly to difficult circumstances, as shown by his WTCC victory in Monza in the rain.