SEAT Leon TDI dominates WTCC race at Monza with pole and two wins Click here to return to the list of news items The SEAT Leon TDI dominated the FIA World Touring Car Championship race meeting at Monza in Italy today, with Yvan Muller qualifying...
SEAT Leon TDI dominates WTCC race at Monza with pole and two wins Click here to return to the list of news items
The SEAT Leon TDI dominated the FIA World Touring Car Championship race meeting at Monza in Italy today, with Yvan Muller qualifying on pole and winning the first race, while Jordi Gene followed up this 2nd place finish in Race 1 with victory in Race 2. The fantastic results move Yvan into the joint lead of the Drivers' Championship (with Andy Priaulx), while SEAT won both races to slash BMW's lead in the Manufacturers' Championship from 32 to 10 points. The final two races of the season take place in Macau in six weeks time (November 17/18), and six drivers remain in contention for the title.
Magnificent team work was the key to SEAT Sport's success at Monza and it planned and executed qualifying and both races to perfection. In front of 52,000 spectators, the three SEAT Leon TDIs of Yvan, Jordi and Gabriele Tarquini, together with the petrol-engined Leons of Tiago Monteiro, Michel Jourdain Jr and Oscar Nogues, the 2006 SEAT Supercopa Champion, performed brilliantly to maximise the points-scoring potential in both the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championship.
Having qualified on pole, Yvan led Race 1 from start to finish and then, with the top eight starting Race 2 in reverse order, he drove another faultless race to finish 5th. Having scored 14 points today, and 39 points in the last three race meetings, Yvan is now tied for the lead of the WTCC on 81 points.
Jordi's second half of the season keeps getting better, and in Monza he was on fantastic form. He drove brilliantly to finish 2nd in Race 1 and enjoyed a ferocious battle for the lead in Race 2. Having taken the lead half way through the race, he pushed hard to secure his first race win of 2007.
Gabriele was superb in qualifying and was looking forward to racing in front of his home fans on his first race in the Leon TDI. His sixth place finish in Race 1 gave him a second row starting position in Race 2, but contact with Augusto Farfus (BMW) and Alain Menu (Chevrolet) broke his front suspension and forced him to retired from 3rd position.
Tiago was hit at the first corner in Race 1 and retired his SEAT Leon with front suspension damage. The team did a great job to repair the car, and he rewarded his engineers by finishing 8th and scoring an unexpected Championship point, having started the race from 24th place on the grid.
Michel had a tough weekend, finding that a small mistake at Monza can create big problems. His determination and effort should have been rewarded with better than 14th in both races.
Oscar, on his second appearance in the WTCC, did a solid job in the sixth official SEAT Sport Leon, and having run as high as 7th he finished 12th in Race 1 -- and was then unlucky to park up in Race 2 with collision damage.
Tom Coronel was fastest in the morning's warm up session and, despite getting delayed in the first corner incident, had a good opening race to bring the GR Asia car from 15th to 9th. The SEAT Netherlands powered by SEAT Sport official driver had another excellent race in the afternoon, finishing 7th after a close battle with Alex Zanardi (BMW).
Pierre-Yves Corthals (SEAT Belgium Leon) finished 2nd in Race 1 and 1st in Race 2, despite some near misses with cars crashing in front of him, in the Independents' Trophy category to open up a 13 point lead in the series. However, he was later excluded from the race meeting for a technical infringement and is 2nd in the series, eight points behind Stefano D'Aste (BMW). Roberto Colciago (SEAT Sport Italia) started race day from last on the grid after a penalty, and things didn't get much better when he was hit from behind and into a spin at the first corner. Having finished Race 1 in 22nd and two laps behind the winner, Roberto started Race 2 from the back of the grid -- but it all came good in the end when he finished a magnificent 10th.
The three SEAT Leon TDIs made a perfect rolling start from the front three positions and cleared the notoriously perilous first corner, with Yvan, Jordi and Gabriele clearing the Prima Variante in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions. They held position until the penultimate lap, when on lap eight Gabriele was overtaken by James Thompson (Alfa Romeo) and Nicola Larini (Chevrolet) entering the second chicane, and then also by Alain Menu (Chevrolet) entering the Parabolica. Gabriele finished 6th, which gave him a second row starting position in Race 2.
As predicted, the heavier Leon TDI was hard on its front tyres and also the brakes; not helped by the warm and sunny conditions and a track temperature of 24C. Towards the end of the race, Yvan had very little brakes left and a big vibration from the front left tyre, which forced him to slow. This, in turn, forced Jordi (who was experiencing no such problems, having been able to take the first half of the race a lot easier sandwiched in 2nd place between his team-mates) and on the final lap he was coming under increasing pressure from a rapidly approaching Thompson. Jordi was able to finish a superb 2nd -- his highest finish of the season to date -- and set the fastest lap of the race, while Yvan's tyre exploded on the slowing down lap.
Oscar had an excellent race and was up to 7th with two laps to go. He was fighting for position with Felix Porteiro (BMW) when they had a coming together at the Prima Variante and Oscar found himself running through the gravel on the exit -- dropping him to a still splendid 12th.
An incident on the first corner of the first lap ended Tiago's race. He and Andy Priaulx (BMW) were the innocent victims as Stefano D'Aste (BMW) overshot the chicane and came back onto the track -- hitting Tiago and pushing him into Priaulx. Tiago came into the pits with broken front suspension, and as he was going to start Race 2 from the back of the grid anyway, the team elected to break the parc ferme rules and work on repairing the car -- the penalty for which is starting from the back of the grid!
Michel had to take to the gravel to avoid the first corner incident, yet recovered and from his starting position of 21st he raced well to finish 14th.
The track temperature had increased to 28C by the time Race 2 began with a starting start, and the first two thirds of the nine lap race were frenzied. Augusto Farfus (BMW) squeezed Gabriele towards the grass on the opening lap, the two touched and Farfus spun into the crash barrier on the outside of the track and bounced back across the track -- directly in front of Yvan -- and hit the barrier on the inside. That, together with another minor coming together with Alain Menu (Chevrolet), broke the front suspension on Gabriele's Leon and he eventually retired from 3rd position.
This left Jordi battling for the lead against the Chevrolets of Larini and Rob Huff and the Alfa of Thompson, and with no other Leons near he seized his chance to go for his first win of 2007. Jordi took the lead exiting the Parabolica on lap four and had to maintain an incredible pace to keep ahead -- so much so, that his laps times during the race were similar to those he did in qualifying. He eventually finished just over one second ahead of Larini, winning what Jordi described as the closest and most exciting touring car race he has ever been involved in.
Having won Race 1, Yvan made a good start and was also on the limited throughout Race 2. Having started 8th, he avoided all the trouble and finished safely in 5th.
Tiago started 24th on the grid and rapidly moved up the field -- often overtaking two cars in one corner. The eight cars that failed to finish the race clearly helped, but it was still a magnificent drive to finish 8th and score an unexpected Championship point from the back of the grid.
Michel lost time when he went off at the Parabolica and recovered to finishing 14th, while Oscar retired after a collision at the second chicane.
Yvan Muller: (SEAT Leon TDI nº12): "It's been a perfect weekend. I was fourteen points behind Andy Priaulx when I arrived at Monza and now we are equal. The team work was amazing this weekend. We planned to do it, we have learned from our mistakes in the past and now we did it perfectly. We were fourth in the Championship when we took the risk to introduce the diesel and now we are joint leaders and we have the payback for taking that risk."
Gabriele Tarquini (SEAT Leon nº 11): "Overall, it has been a fantastic weekend for SEAT and Yvan, and because of this I am very happy. Of course personally I'm not so happy, especially because I had to retire in the second race after collision damage with Farfus and Menu. Farfus moved towards me and I moved away, but I wasn't going to drive onto the grass because he's not my team-mate. That weakened the front suspension and another crash with Menu broke it."
Tiago Monteiro (SEAT Leon nº 18): "It's been an amazing weekend for SEAT and everyone in the team should be congratulated. I had a tough weekend and the collision in the first race was unlucky. The team did a great job to repair the car between races, and when you have a good car and are confident you can push very hard. I overtook a lot of cars in the second race, and of course some other cars ahead of me crashed, but I was pleased to finish the weekend by scoring a Championship point. From the back of the grid, it was a little unexpected."
Jordi Gene (SEAT Leon TDI nº 9): "We had a good pace this weekend, because the WTCC is so close and a little advantage on a circuit that suits your car better makes a big difference. We were fighting with the Chevrolets in race two and then I realised I was the only yellow car up front, so I thought 'this is my turn to win!' I was pushing so hard, I actually bent the brake pedal at the end of the straights! It has been a fantastic weekend for SEAT and I am really pleased. To finish second in race one was good, but to win race two is fantastic. I was beginning to think this win wasn't going to happen!
Michel Jourdain Jr (SEAT Leon nº10): "It has not been a good weekend for me. I have had delays in both races; in the first I had to take to the gravel to avoid other people's accidents and that dropped me to the back of the field and in the second race I made a mistake at the Parabolica. Monza is a very difficult track. You are driving on the limit all of the time, and if you make a small mistake the punishment is a very high price."
Oscar Nogues (SEAT Leon nº38): "The balance of the weekend is very positive. I believe that I have performed well in both races and increasingly learned more about the car. I leave Monza quite satisfied and very grateful to SEAT for this magnificent opportunity that it offered me. I hope that in the future I will be back racing in the WTCC. For sure this is my aim."
Jaime Puig, Director of SEAT Sport: "This is one of the best weekends in the history of SEAT Sport, both in terms of the results and the number of points we have scored in the Championship. We will go to the final race meeting in contention for the Manufacturers' and Drivers' titles, and this is very good for us and for the promotion of the WTCC. I am very proud of the team work we showed this weekend. Qualifying was perfect and to win both races was fantastic. I think you would have to finish one-two-three in both races to have a better weekend."
Next Race: Rounds 21/22 of the FIA WTCC takes place at Macau in China on November 17/18.