Three World Touring Car Championship teams spent two days testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya earlier this week. The Chevrolet, SUNRED SEAT and Polestar Volvo teams were all present.
Chevrolet used two Cruze models fitted with their new 1.6 litre turbo engine, which were driven through the test by reigning WTCC champion Yvan Muller and teammate Rob Huff. The test was the last one for the team before they ship their cars to Brazil for the season opener.
Muller was pleased with how he feels in the modified car, though would have preferred to have done more testing prior to the first race. “I feel quite good in the car although I have done only four days of testing so far, which is not enough when you have to cope with a new car and new regulations,” he said.
Muller has been able to call upon recent experience to compare the turbocharged Cruze with the SEAT that he took to the world championship in 2008. “With the turbo engine the Chevrolet is now very similar to the SEAT turbo diesel in terms of driveability and set up,” he added.
Development engineer Darren Revens explained his feelings about the test. “We are very happy with how this test has gone,” he said. “With the new regulations, reliability is the key, because the engine must last for a minimum of nine events. Therefore we have focused on making it reliable. Here in Barcelona we managed to cover a fair distance without any major drama. So far so good!”
SUNRED Engineering ran two SEAT Leon TDI cars, with Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro (who both drove for the team in 2010) sharing driving duties with new recruit Pepe Oriola as well as Hong Kong driver Paul Ip.
Team Principal Joan Orus was on hand to confirm that, as expected, the team will not initially switch to using the 1.6 litre engine formula that will be used by Chevrolet and BMW teams. “We will start the season with the turbo diesel cars, but we are working to develop a 1.6-litre turbo engine and we will start using it as soon as possible,” explained Orus.
He added that the team is planning to run six cars again in 2011, as it did last season. He revealed that Russian SEAT Leon Eurocup driver Aleksei Dudukalo is likely to drive for the team, in addition to Oriola and existing drivers Fredy Barth and Michel Nykjaer. He also stated that he hoped that Tarquini and Monteiro will continue to race for the team.
“We will run six cars again. It will be interesting, with two young drivers like Oriola and Aleksei Dudukalo, two former rookies like Fredy Barth and Michel NykjÃ¦r and – hopefully – two experienced guys like Tarquini and Monteiro,” he said.
16-year-old Oriola, meanwhile, said that he was looking forward to learning from experienced teammates like Tarquini and Monteiro. “I’m really happy,” the Spaniard said. “This is a great opportunity for me after only two seasons of car racing. Obviously all the drivers in the championship have more experience than I do, but I’m not especially worried. And I’m confident that I can learn a lot during my first season in the World Championship working together team-mates like Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro.”
Polestar Volvo brought along two Volvo C30s to the test – the one that will be driven by Robert Dahlgren in the team's first full WTCC campaign, and the one that new signing James Thompson will use in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship. Both drivers were also present behind the wheel of their respective machines.
Dahlgren said: “We are all excited and keen to develop the car during our first season in the World Championship. We still have a lot work to do, especially on the new turbo engine. We are looking forward to start using it as soon as it will be possible, though we still don’t know when this will happen.”
Track engineer Per Blomberg explained why bringing Thompson and his WTCC experience to the test was so crucial. “The first issue for us is to adapt to the WTCC tracks that are much faster than those we are used to in Sweden,” he said. “This is why we have asked Thompson to join this test and help us in setting up the car.”