SEAT Sport are the early leaders The first two races in the 2006 FIA World Touring Car Championship saw the SEAT Sport team make a near-perfect start to the series. Run in warm sunshine, the races at the Monza circuit in Italy gave the team three...
SEAT Sport are the early leaders The first two races in the 2006 FIA World Touring Car Championship saw the SEAT Sport team make a near-perfect start to the series. Run in warm sunshine, the races at the Monza circuit in Italy gave the team three out of the possible six podium results, so SEAT Sport take an early lead in the Manufacturers' series, while a pair of 2nd place finishes means that Yvan Muller also leads the Drivers' Championship. Race 1 Starting from 2nd position on the grid, Yvan Muller dropped a place on lap 2 to run just ahead of 4th placed James Thompson. Two laps were run behind the safety car, but once racing resumed on lap 5, Muller increased the pressure on the BMW of Dirk Muller and eased past the German driver as the cars crossed the start/finish line at the end of lap 7. Thompson had clearly been inspired by his colleague's move on the BMW because he repeated it 2 laps later, to the cheers of the crowd, with the pair then holding onto their places to give SEAT Sport two of the three podium positions.
In all, there were four SEAT Sport cars in the top 6, with Gabriele Tarquini's Leon finishing 5th and Rickard Rydell 6th. Tarquini also set the race's fastest lap time. Jordi Gene finished outside the points in 12th place after a collision damaged the Leon's suspension and exhaust, which allowed fumes into the car. Peter Terting's mechanics were forced to change his engine after problems in qualifying so the young German started from last place on the grid, but a storming drive from Peter saw him carve his way through the field to finish in 13th position. Race 2 Described by James Thompson as "one of the craziest Touring Car races I've seen" Race 2 was packed with incidents. Yvan Muller, though, managed to avoid the trouble and picked his way from 7th on the grid to repeat his stunning 2nd place finish from Race 1. At one point it looked as though Rickard Rydell would make it 4 podium finishes out of a possible 6 for the SEAT Sport team, but front suspension damage slowed Rickard's Leon and he was passed by Alain Menu's Chevrolet on the final lap and was then hit by Robert Huff's car as he regained the racing line. Gabriele Tarquini didn't suffer quite as badly, but still lost out when he touched Alessandro Zanardi's BMW during an overtaking move. Jordi Gene was one of the drivers who benefited from Tarquini's misfortune and the Spaniard finished 5th, one place ahead of his Italian team-mate.
Another clever drive from Peter Terting saw his first points of the season when he finished in 8th place, while James Thompson was unlucky not to improve on the 6 points he scored in Race 1 after getting caught up in a three-way fight that involved the BMWs of Andy Priaulx and Dirk Muller on lap 3. Yvan Muller (2nd/2nd): "To be honest, I'm a little surprised. I never think about a result, I just do my best and see what happens. I was quick and a little bit lucky, but the important thing was to be there at the end. Realistically, I think a victory was possible if I hadn't lost time with Dirk in Race 1, it would have been possible to play with Andy. As I was alongside Dirk, I was thinking that the straight was very long and I knew the BMW is good under braking, so I knew I had to brake very hard and I held on. We lead both championships now and that's great; we go to my home race next, but I'll be very heavy!"
James Thompson (3rd/9th): "For me, it's very much a case of mixed emotions this evening. I'm pleased, of course, but also really frustrated. The car was fantastic in both races and I had the fastest lap in Race 2, so there was another good result to be had; it's just a shame I got involved in incidents. Everyone's put so much effort in over the winter and it's a really fantastic result for the team. I think we can expect a very good season and to be on the podium lots of times."
Rickard Rydell (6th/22nd): "I'm very disappointed this evening. We didn't expect to take many points away from Monza, but when we saw that the car was so competitive, I was seriously thinking about third place in Race 2 which would have given me nine points. I touched one of the Alfas about three laps from the end and the front suspension was damaged, which allowed Alain Menu to pass me. I'd have been happy with fourth, but Robert Huff braked too late and hit me. It looks good for the rest of the year, though and I'm really encouraged by the weekend." Gabriele Tarquini (5th/6th): "I broke the exhaust after three or four laps of race 1, so the engine lost a little on top speed and I was happy to finish fifth. I'm a little disappointed with Race 2 -- I tried to attack Alex Zanardi at the entrance to Parabolica, we touched and I had a big spin in fifth gear. I kept it on the track, but I'd lost a lot of places. With a little luck, I could have finished on the podium, but the important thing for me and the team is that I scored some points here."
Jordi Gene (12th/5th): "In Race 1, someone hit me very hard from behind and damaged the suspension and the exhaust, which let some fumes into the car. I then made a good start to Race 2, and then I tried hard to stay in the tows and out of trouble. I said I wanted some points from Monza and I have them; I'm looking forward to Magny-Cours now. I never expected us to score so well here and so I'm very happy."
Peter Terting (13th/8th): "The result from the two races, to score a point by finishing eighth, is much better than I expected this morning, but I want to score in both races and I want to finish much higher than eighth. We showed everyone this weekend that the hard work during the winter was worth it; it was just difficult to overtake here. To start from last place after changing the engine was very frustrating but I have to start thinking about Magny-Cours now and we will be strong there, for sure."
Jaime Puig, Director, SEAT Sport: "I'm delighted this evening. We knew that Monza would be very, very hard for us, but the corners were as good as we expected and we were faster on the straights than we thought. We worked hard in the winter and I have to thank the entire team for all their efforts. We saw yesterday how strong we were, but if you'd said this morning that we would have two second places and be leading both championships, I wouldn't have believed you. It already looks to be a strong championship this year and I'm sure we will have to fight right to the end."