If you would have told us ten or twenty years ago that diesel would come to dominate motor racing, we probably would have laughed in your face. But since Audi charted new territory by dominating Le Mans with its R10 TDI, the competition benefits of burning oil is beyond reproach. Not satisfied to let diesel power dominate endurance sportscar racing, however, sister company SEAT picked up the mantle last year in the World Touring Car Championship with the Leon TDI.
As it turns out, running on diesel came to be a liability for SEAT as the WTCC reformatted the rules to reduce diesel's advantage. But the Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo (Spanish Touring Car Company) pulled together, rallied its team and went on to dominate the World Touring Car Championship for the second year in the row, clinching all three of the series titles this past weekend in Macau – China's closest approximation of Monaco and the final round in the championship.
SEAT won the manufacturers' title, outpacing rivals BMW by three small points and outshining Chevrolet (with their new Cruze-based touring car) and Lada. SEAT's main shoe, Gabriele Tarquini, clinched the drivers' title ahead of his teammate (and defending champion) Yvan Muller. As if that wasn't enough, privateer Tom Coronel drove his gasoline-powered Leon to secure the Independents Trophy as well, making it a resounding triple victory for SEAT and its WTCC crew. Details in the press release after the jump and photos in the high-res image gallery below.
Related GallerySEAT Leon TDI at WTCC Macau
IN THE FINAL ROUND STAGED IN MACAU
SEAT becomes World Touring Car Champion again !
• Spectacular success for the Spanish make topping the drivers' and manufacturers' standings for the second year in a row.
• Gabriele Tarquini, SEAT driver, new World Touring Car Champion. Yvan Muller becomes championship runner-up.
• SEAT Sport achieves all aims after an extremely hard season.
Absolute success for SEAT in the 2009 World Touring Car Championship. The SEAT Sport team achieved today all of its aims at the urban racetrack of Macau, venue of the last round of the season, clinching the Manufacturers' World Championship and the Drivers' World Championship for the second year in a row, and also the Independents' Trophy. SEAT and Gabriele Tarquini are the 2009 champions, Yvan Muller finished runner-up and Tom Coronel took the Independents' Trophy, meaning that SEAT has been able to win with two different cars, the Leon TDI and the Leon WTCC, beating BMW, Chevrolet and Lada in the manufacturers' championship.
SEAT, who was defending this year the two world titles achieved last season, achieves one of the biggest successes for Spanish sports in 2009, with a triumphant finish after a very difficult season, marked by the difficulties stemming from several regulation changes during the season which limited the possibilities of the SEAT León TDI. However, all of these changes did not hinder a triumphant finish, thanks to the effort and team work of all SEAT Sport team members.
This spirit has been essential in a very complicated weekend. On Friday, Gabriele Tarquini and Yvan Muller, champion and runner-up, finished the qualifying session in hospital after sustaining a serious accident which left their cars quite battered. After the efforts of the mechanics to have the cars ready for the race, the five drivers of the team carried out a perfect strategy today to secure the double victory.
In the first race, an impeccable start by Tiago Monteiro, Jordi Gené and Gabriele Tarquini, allowed the SEAT drivers to control the situation from the second, third and fourth position, without taking risks for the victory and scoring the points needed to secure the first of the titles. Tarquini finished the race second, ahead of Gené, with Yvan Muller fifth and Monteiro sixth. This result awarded one of the two SEAT drivers mathematically with the title already.
The second race was even more tactical, with Yvan Muller on third position, followed by Monteiro and Gené, and with Gabriele Tarquini recovering positions and moving up to sixth. Gené was slightly touched which allowed Tarquini to pass him, leaving the SEAT in formation, keeping their positions. An accident in the back of the pack forced the race to be red-flagged two laps before the finish, thus confirming SEAT's and Gabriele Tarquini's triumph.
In the Independents' Trophy, Tom Coronel won the first race, which awarded him the title mathematically, his second title in this class with SEAT.
With his victory, Gabriele Tarquini becomes the seventh Italian world champion in history eighteen years after Teo Fabi and beforehand Nino Farina, Alberto Ascari, Mauro Baldi, Roberto Ravaglia and Massimo Biasion. He has also marked a spectacular record, since at his 47 years of age, he is the most veteran champion in motor sports history, passing even Juan Manuel Fangio.
For the Spanish make, this is the fifth world title after those achieved in rallies in 1996, 1997 and 1998 with the Ibiza Kit Car and the four titles of the World Touring Car Championship clinched in 2008 and 2009 with the León TDI WTCC.
Gabriele Tarquini: "It is amazing to clinch the title after such a long sports career. I started the weekend with some trouble, but I was able to recover and the extraordinary work of my mechanics made it possible for me to take part in a race that meant a unique opportunity for me which I simply could not miss. It's been a very hard championship, very intense, and in order to win over two rivals who are as strong as Yvan Muller and Augusto Farfus, it's been essential to score many points in all races.
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Director: "Winning two championships for the second year in a row is the reward for a fantastic year and I want to thank the whole team for their effort, their great capacity for work and their solidarity. The races in Macau have shown that we are a team in which everybody works for everybody. After the two championships achieved last year, we wanted to take at least one of the titles this year, and we took them both. It's been an extraordinary result."
Race 1: 1. R.Huff (Chevrolet); 2. G.Tarquini (SEAT León TDI); 3. J.Gené (SEAT León TDI); 4. A.Menu (Chevrolet); 5.Y.Muller (SEAT León TDI); 6. T.Monteiro (SEAT León TDI); 7.J.Muller (Chevrolet); 8. A.Farfus (BMW); 9. A.Zanardi (BMW);...11. R.Rydell (SEAT León TDI)
Race 2: 1. A.Farfus (BMW); 2. J.Müller (BMW); 3. Y.Muller (SEAT León TDI); 4.T.Monteiro (SEAT León TDI); 5. G.Tarquini (SEAT León TDI); 6. J.Gené (SEAT León TDI); 7. N.Larini (Chevrolet); 8. R.Huff (Chevrolet); 9. A.Zanardi (BMW); 10. R.Rydell (SEAT León TDI);
Manufacturers standings: 1. SEAT, 314 points. 2. BMW, 311 p. 3. Chevrolet, 215 p. 4. Lada, 83 p.
Drivers standings: 1. G.Tarquini (SEAT) 127 points. 2. Y.Muller (SEAT) 123 p. 3. A.Farfus (BMW) 113 p. 4. A.Priaulx (BMW) 84 p. 5. R.Huff (Chevrolet) 80 p. 6. J.Muller (BMW) 76 p.7. R.Rydell (SEAT), 64 p. 8. J.Gené (SEAT) 48 p. 9. T.Monteiro (SEAT) 44 p. 10. A.Menu (Chevrolet) 39 p.