Muller strengthens title challenge after Brands Hatch battles Yvan Muller has moved up to 3rd in the FIA World Touring Car Championship Drivers' standings after finishing 4th and 5th in the two UK rounds at Brands Hatch. The SEAT Leon TDI ...
Muller strengthens title challenge after Brands Hatch battles
Yvan Muller has moved up to 3rd in the FIA World Touring Car Championship Drivers' standings after finishing 4th and 5th in the two UK rounds at Brands Hatch. The SEAT Leon TDI driver is now only two points behind 2nd-placed Augusto Farfus and the only non-BMW driver in the top four.
Yvan was followed home in each race by Jordi Gene in the other SEAT Leon TDI. An unnecessary distraction for both diesel-powered SEAT Sport drivers in both races was Colin Turkington, whose British Touring Car Championship spec BMW was not eligible to score Manufacturer points, nor its pilot Driver points. In both races Yvan and Jordi had battles with Turkington, which ultimately prevented them scoring podium results -- which both drivers undoubtedly deserved.
Tiago Monteiro had been the fastest official SEAT Sport driver on Saturday, but a technical problem on the green flag lap saw him come into the pits as the rolling start began without him. He joined the race one lap down and finished 21st and last. This meant that he started the second race from the tenth row of the grid, denying Tiago any hopes of a points scoring finish.
As the top 18 cars all qualified within one second of each other, race day was always going to be very close -- and so it proved, as overtaking on the 3.703km Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit proved difficult. Gabriele Tarquini was only 0.430 off pole position, but started Race 1 from 11th and finished 10th. Front suspension problems forced him to retire from Race 2, and the two non-scores has effectively ended his challenge for this year's WTCC Drivers' title -- although he has vowed to continue to help Yvan and SEAT win the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles.
Michel Jourdain Jr suffered most after qualifying 20th and then moving to the back of the grid after receiving a 10 place grid slot penalty for not slowing down when the yellow flags were deployed in qualifying. All hopes of a points scoring finish were over before race day arrived, but that didn't prevent him racing like a champion in his many mid-field battles.
The results has strengthened SEAT's nd place position in the Manufacturers' Championship. It is now 32 points behind BMW, with Chevrolet and Alfa Romeo behind.
Pierre-Yves Corthals (SEAT Belgium Leon) was sensational at Brands Hatch, scoring maximum Independents' Trophy points in both races to retake the lead in the series. He qualified 6th and finished 8th overall in the first race and kept out of trouble in the second race to ensure two visits to the podium. Roberto Colciago finished 2nd in both races, but it was a difficult weekend for the SEAT Sport Italia team, as they had to break parc ferme rules to replace his engine between Race 1 and 2, meaning he started the second race from last on the grid. Team-mate Massimiliano Pedalà also had an engine change, after putting a rear wheel on the grass in the morning's warm-up session and slamming head-on into the pit wall. The damaged Leon rebounded into the gravel trap on the outside of the track and burst into flames, as a fuel line had been slip on impact. After his engine was changed, he joined Race 1 after 11 laps and finished the second race 5th in class.
Race 1 Jordi timed the rolling start to perfection and charged down the outside of the field to move from 8th to 3rd by the end of the first corner. Behind, Gabriele, Augusto Farfus (BMW) and Jorg Muller (BMW) were all squeezed towards the same piece of track, which saw Muller spin at the bottom of Paddock Hill Bend. He was hit by Nicola Larini (Chevrolet) and they were joined in the gravel by Sergey Krylov (GR Asia SEAT Leon) -- which brought out the Safety Car for two laps -- extending the 14 lap race to 16. Gabriele, Farfus and Muller continued, while Larini and Krylov retired.
The race was quite static after that, with few overtaking opportunities. Jordi held onto a great 3rd place until the start of the final lap, but Colin Turkington (BMW) was proving an unnecessary distraction -- pushing Jordi hard and holding up 5th placed Yvan. Jordi let Turkington through and in doing so lost momentum and this saw Yvan -- who set the fastest lap of the race (1:33.980 / 141.84kph) in his SEAT Leon TDI on lap five -- though as well. This dropped Jordi down to 5th, while Yvan finished 4th.
After the first corner incident, Gabriele then had an uneventful race to 10th, while Michel started from the back of the 25 car field and raced well to finish in 19th place. Tiago had a technical problem on the green flag lap and came into the pits instead of starting in 4th. He later rejoined the race and finished last, one lap down.
Race 2 As the two SEAT Leon TDIs lined up on the third row, Jordi made another fantastic start, this time from a standing position, to move from 5th to 4th, while Yvan tucked in behind Turkington in 6th. Once again, the BTCC driver was to prove a distraction, as the same three cars battled for position in a repeat of the earlier race. The lighter BMW finally overtook Jordi on lap 14, and when Jordi ran wide at Graham Hill Bend on the next lap, Yvan was able to overtake as well. Yvan finished a strong 5th, just ahead of Jordi.
The exciting race had two Safety Car periods -- the first when Alex Zanardi (BMW) went off on the first lap and the second when Alain Menu (Chevrolet) collided with Farfus. Farfus slammed backwards into the pit wall and Menu was soon black flagged for violating Safety Car procedure.
These retirements helped the drivers behind move up. Having been classified last in Race 1, Tiago had started 19th and was carving his way through the field when he was hit so hard from behind by Larini that it jarred his back. He continued and finished one place ahead of Larini in 11th place. Michel started 17th and ran behind Tiago for most of the race, before finishing 13th.
Gabriele had also improved on his starting position and was 8th when the front suspension came lose on lap 12 and he came into the pits to retire.
Yvan Muller: (SEAT Leon TDI nº12): "With the extra weight of the diesel engine and the weight handicap, we have struggled to find a good set-up at Brands Hatch, but in the end we have had two quite good results and I am third in the Drivers' Championship, just two points behind Farfus. I wasted a lot of energy today fighting with Turkington, who was so much lighter than me and not able to score points. It certainly cost me a podium in the first race. I pushed hard, but I had to ease because my tyres went off and I wasn't going to risk crashing trying to overtake him. He has nothing to lose and I am fighting for the World Championship."
Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon nº 11): "My starting position after qualifying cost me a lot. I had an accident in the first corner of the first race, but despite this my race pace was good. My car's balance was fantastic, but it was impossible to overtake here and gain positions. Now my chance of winning the Drivers' Championship has gone, but I want to finish well and help Yvan in the Drivers' title and help win the Manufacturers' title for SEAT."
Tiago Monteiro (SEAT Leon nº 18): "My pace has been really good this weekend. I was the fastest SEAT Sport driver in free practice and in qualifying and it's very frustrating to have a problem before the first race has even started. I had a good start in the second race, but the marshals were still waving the yellow flags when the Safety Car came in and I had two really bad restarts because of this and lost ground. It's been a little bit frustrating this weekend, but we'll go to Monza next searching for my first WTCC win."
Jordi Gene (SEAT Leon TDI nº 9): "It's been a very positive weekend. Oschersleben was a good weekend and also here. I had the speed in the first half of the season but not the results, so to get this rhythm and consistency two weekends in a row is very good. I hope I can now get some podium finishes and help SEAT win the Constructors' Championship, and also Yvan in the Drivers' Championship -- that is my target for the last two race meetings of the season."
Michel Jourdain Jr (SEAT Leon nº10): "I've been in the middle of some good fights all day, but once again qualifying has been a problem and my starting position on the grid has made race day very difficult. I am getting faster all the time, but we can pick up a lot of time in qualifying and this is what we will continue to work on. It would certainly make life easier on race day."