Tom Coronel happy after Portimao premiere Portimao, July 4th, 2010 - Sixth and seventh place in the two races of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the circuit of Portimao in Portugal were more than what SEAT driver Tom Coronel had...
Tom Coronel happy after Portimao premiere
Portimao, July 4th, 2010 - Sixth and seventh place in the two races of the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) at the circuit of Portimao in Portugal were more than what SEAT driver Tom Coronel had expected after an oil leak in qualifying prevented him from achieving a better position on the starting grid for the first race. "I scored points in both races and I had a lot of fun, so the verdict on the weekend, the first WTCC event at Portimao, definitely is a positive one," said Coronel, who is backed in his campaign by McGregor and TW Steel.
Next to the football World Cup, the hot weather was the main talking point during the race weekend. "When you are on holiday, that is nice, of course, but when you have to work, it is quite warm," said Tom Coronel. But even that was thought of during the construction of the circuit: in the middle of the paddock, there is a large swimming pool where everybody comes to cool down a few times during the weekend. "Drivers, mechanics, journalists and photographers, TV people: everyone who isn't working in the pits or in the media centre prefers to be somewhere at the swimming pool, as that is the best place to be," said Coronel.
Second fastest time in second free practice makes optimistic But of course, the weekend wasn't just about relaxing at the poolside, there was also some racing to be done. Because the WTCC was at the Portimao circuit for the first time, there was a 30 minutes' test session on Friday, in which Coronel ended up eleventh with a lap time of 1:58.283 minutes. On Saturday morning, he managed to improve his time to 1:57.265 minutes, but not his position: in first free practice, he was classified 13th. In second free practice, however, Coronel set the second fastest time. With his personal best lap time of 1:56.925 minutes, he also was the best-placed SEAT driver. "This makes me optimistic", said the driver while looking forward to qualifying and the races.
In qualifying, however, Coronel wasn't able to meet the expectations: with a lap time of 1:56.946 minutes, he was only classified 15th on the starting grid. The reason turned out to be an oil leak in the engine. Coronel: "I had an oil alarm on my dashboard all the time and the oil that leaked from the engine also came on the tyres. As a result, I couldn't get a quicker lap time." Had it not been for the technical problem, a better result certainly would have been possible, said Coronel: "We were comfortably on the pace this morning, as our second fastest time in second free practice showed. So, we definitely expected a top ten result. We didn't put any new tyres in or something, but then, the oil alarm occurred. That was quite a setback indeed."
A strong recovery with a new engine Following the problems with loss of oil in qualifying, the team decided not to take any unnecessary risks and put a new TDI diesel engine into the car for race day. "They were working until late in the evening, but on Sunday, my car was perfect again for the race," said Tom Coronel. In the 15 minutes' warm-up session, Coronel emerged 16th fastest. "I only did six laps, more wasn't necessary. The only goal was for us to make sure that everything was working as planned and that turned out to be the case, so I was optimistic for the races." Changing the engine didn't have any negative effects on Coronel's position on the starting grid, because he had completed the races at Monza and Zolder with the previous engine. According to the WTCC regulations, engine changes are allowed without any consequences after two events.
In the first race, Coronel already laid the foundation for a good result with a good start: after the opening lap, he was tenth. After that, he won another two places on lap seven as SEAT drivers Michel Nykjaer and Norbert Michelisz tangled and came off the track together. This already put Coronel into a promising position for a good starting grid position for the second race. After Jordi Gené and Rob Huff also retired, Coronel was already sixth and that was also the position in which he crossed the finish line, which not only brought him valuable championship points, but also a position on the second row of the starting grid for the second race. "Initially, I was quite aggressive, which allowed me to make up places already, but then I saw that Huff was getting problems with his tyres and that that would probably be an issue. Therefore, I didn't take too many risks and eventually I came sixth," Coronel said. "That was definitely much more than what I had expected after qualifying yesterday."
Points, but a lot of contact in race two In the second race, Coronel ended up seventh. He started third, but already lost a place at the start as Fredy Barth stalled on the grid in front of him and he had to avoid him. In the following laps, he was hit by several drivers and lost a few paces, after which he was classified seventh. "That was quite bad. Tarquini hit me twice, Muller twice, Monteiro twice and Priaulx once. Nobody overtook me, for instance, by outbraking me, but only by running into me. I lost the rear bumper and the exhaust was damaged, due to which I lost speed. But that is the way it is. All in all, I am quite happy with this weekend. I scored points twice, which was the goal, and I had a lot of fun during the races. And the results are better than what I had expected after yesterday's qualifying."
Next races: Brands Hatch (GBr), July 18th