The final appearance of a diesel powered SEAT in the WTCC turned out to be a disappointing affair. The long fast straights and sweeping bend of the beautiful Salzburgring showed up the cars lack of overall bhp from the moment Tom took to the track for his first Free Practice on a hot Saturday morning. The key to setting good times this weekend was the ability to draft behind your team mates car in order to pick up over a second in time. This effected both STR SEAT’s as Tom was not quick enough to help Darryl, and Darryl was too quick for Tom!
In the second free practice, Darryl, trying to find the extra second, out braked himself at the chicane and hit an immovable tyre wall designed to stop the cutting of the kerbs. This caused significant damage to the front end of his SEAT, and the team had to work hard to get him out for the qualifying session.
This, however, was duly achieved and both cars headed out for the first qualification session. Tom knew his car would struggle to break the 1:30:00s barrier. After three laps he posted a 1:30:057s and decided to conserve tyres and call it a day. He would start in 20th for both races. Darryl was running in 13th spot, one off making it into the second qualification round. With just over three minutes to go it seemed his luck was out as the red flags came out to halt the session. Tom Chilton had under-steered into Franz Engstler at Turn 5, sending the BMW into the gravel. The pressure was on as Darryl came back onto the circuit with only one flying lap available to him. 1:28:364s and Darryl moved into tenth overall and onto the second round of qualification. A great result for him and the team. In the second round Darryl posted 1:28:342s which qualified him in 11th spot, but just 0:00:022s behind the SEAT of Aleksei Dudukalo. This would have had him on pole for race two, but the margins are so very small in the WTCC.
Race day, and all eyes were on the first chicane as all 21 cars headed down from the faster rolling start. All managed to get through unscathed. The race then developed as the Chevrolet’s lead in a 1,2,3 formation. All the cars managed to keep up thanks to the drafting effect, but it was clear to see that the Diesel was struggling to maintain the pace. Then disaster for STR. Darryl made a move on D’Aste going into the chicane on lap 5. Going down the inside he locked his brakes as D’Aste in his BMW turned into the corner and hit Darryl. Darryl controlled the car and went through the escape lane and rejoined the circuit losing position. As he recovered the situation he was then hit hard from the back by the BMW of Charles Ng which speared him off into the barrier. It was a big hit and Darryl was taken to the medical centre for checks on a very sore ankle. The car also sustained too much damage to be repaired in time for the second race and the weekend was over for number 20.
Tom kept racing hard, but he couldn’t break the 1:30:00s barrier. Then on lap 17 the car suffered transmission failure, and the race was over. With such a short turnaround period for the second race, the car could not be fixed and the Diesel had run its last race.
The team now move on to Portimao in the Portuguese Algarve. Tom is looking forward to driving the new SEAT 1.6T WTCC car. This should benefit both drivers, as they have not been able to share data and work on set up with the two cars being so different.
Tom commented “It’s been a frustrating first half of the season. Knowing that my car has been significantly slower then the rest has made it a tough time for me. This has been accentuated by the faster circuits of Marrakesh, the Hungaroring and the Salzburgring. However, now is the time to look forward and in my mind its the start of a new season for me. I can see the potential the SEAT has, and if I can get some solid finishes under my belt going forward I can quickly move up in the Yokohoma Trophy.”