In 2008, the Volkswagen group expanded its diesel racing efforts beyond the already successful Audi R10 TDI into smaller bore classes. Here in North America, we had the VW Jetta TDI cup. Elsewhere, the Spanish branch of the Group, known as SEAT, ran a competition version of the Leon TDI in the World Touring Car Championship as well as the British Touring Car Championship. The WTCC still has two races to run but both the drivers and manufacturers championships have been decided in SEAT's favor. BMW won the last three championships but the Leon TDI has become the first diesel car to win an FIA world championship. The Leons won half of the first 22 races accumulating enough points for the championship. Swedish driver Rickard Rydell took two of those wins and enough good finishes to win the driver's title.
30 October 2008
SEAT: WORLD TOURING CAR CHAMPIONS
SEAT has secured both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles in the 2008 FIA World Touring Car Championship after Rickard Rydell won Round 21 of the series at the Okayama International Circuit in Japan at the wheel of the Leon TDI.
This is SEAT's first overall title in the WTCC and signifies the first time a diesel race car has triumphed not only in the WTCC, but in any FIA championship. In addition, it ends BMW's long run of success in the series.
The Leon TDI has won 11 of the 22 races so far, with Rounds 23 and 24 still left to go in Macau on 15/16 November. In comparison, BMW has taken six victories, Chevrolet three and Honda one.
The Drivers' title is also certain to go to SEAT, as the only two championship contenders left as the series travels to the Far East are Yvan Muller (France) and Gabriele Tarquini (Italy) – both members of the SEAT Sport team.
Five official drivers have contested the WTCC for SEAT in 2008, all of which have won races this season – the other three are Jordi Gené (Spain), Tiago Monteiro (Portugal) and Rickard Rydell (Sweden). In addition, Tom Coronel (Netherlands) has enjoyed notable success in his petrol-engined SUNRED Team Leon – indeed, he snatched his maiden WTCC victory in the second race of Japan.
Located in the remote mountainous forest region of the Okayama Prefecture, near the city of Mimosaka, this was the first time Japan hosted a round of the WTCC. The tight and twisty 2.3-mile/12 corner track was previously a setting for the Pacific F1 Grand Prix.
Jaime Puig, SEAT Sport Director, was more than happy with the team's result: 'The excellent teamwork of all people working at SEAT Sport, both those making up the race team, as well as all those who support us in Martorell, has been key to this success. I want to say a big thank you to all of them, because it is their working capacity and team spirit that has allowed us to achieve such a significant success.'