Points and Pole Position For SEAT - A Perfect Start After Saturday's damp, overcast morning, race day dawned dry and sunny and tens of thousands of Italian fans enjoyed a full day's racing programme, which included the FIA GT Championship as...
Points and Pole Position For SEAT - A Perfect Start
After Saturday's damp, overcast morning, race day dawned dry and sunny and tens of thousands of Italian fans enjoyed a full day's racing programme, which included the FIA GT Championship as well as rounds 1 & 2 of the European Touring Car Championship. Spirits in the SEAT camp were high after the morning warm-up session, which saw all three of the team's drivers lap within 1.3 seconds of the quickest time.
An incident-packed first few seconds saw Salvatore Tavano's Alfa Romeo stall on the start-line, forcing Jordi Gené to take to the grass to avoid hitting him. That incident forced the organisers to bring out their brand new SEAT Leon Cupra safety car, but not before Rickard Rydell was involved in a minor collision in the opening corner. The damage caused was relatively minor, but it cost the Swede precious seconds during the race. Frank Diefenbacker's aim was to get his SEAT Toledo Cupra into the points and he duly did so, to the obvious delight of the team. His 8th place means he opened the points tally for SEAT, and with the top eight positions reversed for race two, he'll also start from pole position. Gené went on to finish 10th after battling with Alex Zanardi's BMW for much of the race, while Rydell finished 11th on his debut for the SEAT team.
Frank Diefenbacher: "I'm absolutely delighted to have scored a point for SEAT on the very first round of the series. I'll also be on pole for round two - the team's first pole position, but not the last I'm sure! I was a little concerned with the car's engine temperature during the race; I had to slipstream the BMW ahead of me, but each time I moved up behind him, the temperature went up. There's also oil almost everywhere around the track, so you can't go off-line, but on the whole I'm really pleased with how the race went."
Rickard Rydell: "I had a coming-together with one of the Alfas on the first corner of the first lap and that knocked the front suspension out slightly. It was toeing-out and pulling to the left for the whole race as a result, plus the front splitter was hanging down. My brakes still need some adjustment, so I don't really know what I can do in race two."
Jordi Gené: "The car in front of me stalled on the start-line and I had to take to the grass to get around him. Then, when I was trying to pass Zanardi, I went off so I was back to where I started. It was hot inside the car, but I'm very happy; we're clearly competitive, even though the result maybe doesn't reflect that."
A strong start from Diefenbacher saw him in second place going into the opening corner and, despite the challenge of the BMWs, the SEAT Toledo Cupra was able to stay with the pack. Jordi Gené was able to pick up his first points of the season by finishing 8th while Rickard Rydell completed the team's 100% finishing record by bringing his car home in 11th place.
The talk of the paddock was Diefenbacher, who battled with the BMWs and the Alfa Romeo of Augusto Farfus Jr throughout the race. A thrilling fight with Antonio Garcia over the final few laps ended with the SEAT overtaking the BMW on the final lap to retake 6th place. It was a performance that delighted the fans and the SEAT Sport team alike.
Frank Diefenbacher: "It's been a fantastic weekend for us. The mechanics have done a great job and we've taken some useful points from what's our least favourite circuit. I had a very good start, but my foot slipped off the brake pedal three times during the race. I didn't hit anyone, but I lost a little time. I went around the outside of Garcia at the Parabolica on the last lap to finish sixth, but maybe I could have finished higher if I'd had the engine from practice. But, that's racing and I'm very, very happy with the weekend."
Rickard Rydell: "We didn't really solve the brake problems and I was losing far too much time under hard braking. It seems that the team is much closer to the others now, so it already looks to be a great season for us. You have to remember that Monza is a very special circuit, so I know we'll be really good when we get to somewhere that suits us better."
Jordi Gené: "It's really nice to be fighting with the others like we did in that race. I had a good start, but I couldn't quite get past Garcia's BMW like Frank did. It's great to have scored my first point already; if we can score here at Monza, we can score anywhere."
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport's Motorsport & Technical Director: "We are all very happy after this weekend. We've clearly made progress and we're now on the pace of the others, although they've also made improvements since last year. We must continue our work, but we are on the right track as the team has shown."
The next event of the ETCC will see the SEAT Sport team on home ground, when Valencia hosts rounds 3 and 4 of the series on April 17/18.