SEAT SPORT WTCC DRIVER PROFILE Rickard Rydell -- the "quiet man" of Touring Cars At the halfway point of the 2005 FIA World Touring Car Championship, SEAT Sport has already scored two race victories with Rickard Rydell, the team's highest ...
SEAT SPORT WTCC DRIVER PROFILE
Rickard Rydell -- the "quiet man" of Touring Cars
At the halfway point of the 2005 FIA World Touring Car Championship, SEAT Sport has already scored two race victories with Rickard Rydell, the team's highest scoring driver, in 6th place in the series with 33 points from the 10 races. This year is 38 year old Rickard's second season with SEAT Sport, after a successful 2004 campaign in the European Touring Car Championship that saw him secure the team's first victory. That win was repeated at Silverstone this year -- the first time a Spanish manufacturer had won a World Championship event -- and the Swede is confident of at least one more victory before the end of the year.
Rydell's driving career began when he was around nine years old when he raced karts in Sweden, winning the Swedish 100cc Karting Championship twice in his late teens. A lengthy period in single-seater racing cars followed, which included spells competing in both Japan and the United Kingdom. 1990 also saw Rickard's first attempt at the classic Le Mans 24 Hours Race, while he won the Macau F3 race in 1992 and finished 2nd in the Japanese Formula 3 series the following year. Rickard made the move to Touring Car racing in 1994, when he joined the TWR/Volvo team competing in the British Touring Car Championship.
The decision, he recalls, was an easy one. "I had an offer to continue in F3 in Japan, where I was competing with the likes of Mika Salo and Eddie Irvine, and I also had good contacts with Eddie Jordan in Formula One, but I didn't have the kind of money he was looking for. Also, I'd had a lung collapse in Japan at the end of 1993 and so wanted to stay closer to home. The decision to race in the BTCC was made for me, really, but I didn't realise just how big the series was going to become. It grew and grew during the late '90s and, by the time I won the Championship in 1998, there were sixteen cars from eight manufacturers competing and so it was tough to win. I also won the Bathurst 1000 Super Touring race in Australia that year, so 1998 saw two of the best moments of my career."
Six years as an integral part of the BTCC made Rickard realise that his dream move to Formula One was never going to happen. "Once you do more than one year in Touring Cars, it's almost impossible to go back to single-seaters and so I decided to make a career out of Touring Cars. I don't think I've done too badly, really!" Following Volvo's withdrawal from the BTCC, Rickard continued to drive Touring Cars in both the British and European Championships. He also tackled Le Mans and the FIA GT Championship at the wheel of a Ferrari before joining the SEAT Sport ETCC team at the start of 2004.
"SEAT Sport has been one of the easiest teams I've ever known to settle into. It's very easy to get to know people quickly; the Spanish mentality is so easy-going, they're easy to like and I arrived at a good time. The team wants to do well and so we share the same goals. I really enjoy it when I work together with a team, testing and developing the car; it's so much more satisfying than just jumping into a proven car and winning. It's like that now with SEAT.
"We're developing the new Leon together and that's why I like to stay with one team for a long time, building relationships. It's good for the team, too."
Away from the racing circuits, Rickard likes nothing better than to head home to his wife and three children in Sweden. He enjoys anything water-related -- water-skiing, wakeboarding or even just using his boat to pop down to the shops or a restaurant -- while golf and skiing are also favourite hobbies.
"Having a second life outside racing is important. I've lived in Sweden for virtually all the time I've been racing and it's important to me to be able to go home to my family and not think about racing. I'm also happy to be the 'quiet man'; I'm not as outspoken as some other drivers and I like to keep my feet on the ground and not try to be someone else."
Looking ahead to the second half of the 2005 season, Rickard feels another victory is more than possible.
"I'd like to think we can win at least once or twice more. I'll be carrying a lot of weight for Spa, so I don't think I can do it there, but Oschersleben should be good for us again and nobody really knows Istanbul at all. As for Macau, I've won there in F3 but it's difficult to say how the new car will go there, so we'll have to wait and see. I think we're right where we expected to be this season - we've had two race wins so far this year and if we score one or two more, we'll have achieved our objectives. I'm not sure we can win the Championship with one car while developing another, but we've shown that we're now really competitive with the Toledo. If we continue to do everything right, we should have a good chance of being in the top three at the end of the year."
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Director said, "We knew about Rickard before he joined us, of course, but we never realised exactly what he would do for us. He's very easy to work with, but he's also very demanding; he knows exactly what he wants from the car and pushes the team to give it to him. Some drivers are demanding but they don't give anything back; Rickard's not like that. Away from the circuits, he's great company and very friendly and that also helps with our relationship a great deal."
"Rickard has also given a lot of help and encouragement to Peter (Terting) and even Jordi (Gene) this year. Rickard and Jordi knew each other back in the '90s when they raced against each other in Macau and that also helps, I think. All three of our drivers help each other, but of course they all want to win! We have three fantastic drivers in SEAT Sport and I think that is one of the great strengths of the team."