ETCC: Dubai: SEAT Sport race one, two notes

Mixed finale to the ETCC season for SEAT Sport At easily the hottest meeting of the year, air temperatures of around 40 degrees Celcius and 85% humidity made qualifying and the races very uncomfortable. Race 1 As predicted, the heat and the ...

Mixed finale to the ETCC season for SEAT Sport

At easily the hottest meeting of the year, air temperatures of around 40 degrees Celcius and 85% humidity made qualifying and the races very uncomfortable. Race 1 As predicted, the heat and the varying levels of grip made for a thrilling race.

Following qualifying, the SEAT Sport mechanics had worked long into the night to change the engine in Frank Diefenbacher's Toledo Cupra and the difference was immediately clear. Since the old engine had already completed two race weekends, Frank started from his qualifying position of 12th, had improved to 8th by the end of the opening lap and was 4th after lap 4.

Contact with Augusto Farfus' Alfa Romeo dropped Frank to 5th on lap 5, which is where he finished. Rickard Rydell and Jordi Gene were less fortunate. Rydell was 6th after lap 1, but a puncture on the next forced the Swede to pit and he went on to finish 15th. Gene's race, though, lasted less than a lap; the Toledo's engine dropped onto 3 cylinders halfway through lap 1 and the engineers decided that the damage was too severe to allow Jordi to start Race 2.

Frank Diefenbacher: "I'm very happy - I think I clearly proved to everyone how things should have been in qualifying. It was unbelievably hot inside the car; my racing boot was starting to melt! The other problem I had was Farfus. I can't believe he was so unfair and he deserves to be punished for what he did. There was no attempt at passing; he just drove into me. For the second race I'll try to get onto the podium, but I know it'll be difficult."

Rickard Rydell: "It was going really well. I passed two of the Alfas at the start, but one of the BMWs got past me. I was fighting with both Dirk and Jorg Muller and I think one of them tapped me, but there was then some debris on the track from one of the Alfas and I ran over it and picked up a puncture. My aim is to get some points in the second race, but the track is so slippery off-line that it'll be tough to overtake."

Jordi Gene: "The start wasn't so good for me; I had some slight clutch slip and someone hit me from behind. The next half a lap or so felt good and I was able to make up the places I'd lost, but then the engine dropped onto three cylinders and I came into the pits. The guys have taken a look, but it doesn't look like they can fix it and so that's that. I'm disappointed, of course, but that's motor racing!"

Race 2 The searing temperatures were even more of a problem. Unfortunately, Rickard Rydell was caught up in a first lap accident that left his car too badly damaged to continue. Within seconds, Frank Diefenbacher had also been hit by Alex Zanardi's BMW, but thanks to the red flag, the team was able to change the car's rear axle on the starting grid.

The German driver was full of praise for the SEAT Sport mechanics, stating that he couldn't think of another team who could have replaced and realigned the axle in just 5 minutes. Rydell's retirement had left Diefenbacher to uphold team honours and, after the restart, Frank was soon fighting with three Alfa Romeos for 4th place.

A small mistake saw Frank run wide on one corner and the remainder of his race was spent battling his way past the two BMWs of Dirk and Jorg Muller and the Alfas of Augusto Farfus and Fabrizio Giovanardi. Frank was then able to finish in 4th place, but the incredible heat had taken its toll and it took around half an hour until he felt able to take part in the post-race debrief with his engineer.

Frank Diefenbacher: "I made a very good start the first time, but Zanardi turned into me so hard he broke my rear axle. The second start wasn't so good. I had a small clutch problem and then I couldn't believe it when Farfus hit me again; to hit someone on purpose when they're under braking is very bad. The rest of the race was very tough - I had to pass both Mullers, then I got past Farfus again and then I passed Giovanardi when he had a problem. The biggest problem, though, was the heat; I've never had such a hot race in my life. I couldn't touch my helmet and both my boots have melted slightly. I actually felt cool when I got out of the car; it felt like getting out in winter when it's freezing! I'm very happy with my day, however, and I'm very optimistic for next year. The car has clearly shown it has potential and the team is excellent."

Rickard Rydell: "I had a very good start and made up six places in the first few corners, but then Farfus hit Antonio Garcia in front of me and there was nowhere for me to go. It was like everything was in slow motion; I hit Garcia, someone else hit me from behind and then Magnusson's Peugeot ended up on its roof alongside me. It's obviously a huge disappointment to end the season like this, but I'm pleased that at least Frank got a good result."

Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Motorsport & Technical Director: "I have to say that I'm very happy for Frank and for the results over the past two days, but I'm sorry for Jordi and Rickard. Looking back at the season, we've been fighting to be on the podium in almost every race and so we achieved our objective. Last year was participation, this year our target was podiums and next year it will be victories. We now have a long winter of development ahead of us, but we will have to work much harder than the others to make sure we can beat them next season!"

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Series General
Drivers Fabrizio Giovanardi , Antonio Garcia , Alex Zanardi , Jorg Muller , Frank Diefenbacher , Augusto Farfus , Rickard Rydell , Jordi Gene , Jaime Puig