Tom Coronel will make the switch to driving a BMW in the World Touring Car Championship in 2011, after joining the returning ROAL Motorsport team.
The 38-year-old Dutchman, who has driven SEATs since the series was revived in 2005, will drive a BMW 320 TC for the Italian team, run by successful touring car racer Roberto Ravaglia, which ran a factory-supported BMW team from 2005 to 2009. The car will be powered by the 1.6 litre turbocharged engine that is being developed by BMW Motorsport for the new engine regulations.
Previous to his years as a SEAT driver, Coronel raced a BMW for the Carly Motors team in the European Touring Car Championship. He is pleased to be returning to the wheel of a car from the German brand.
“Every winter, it is thrilling to look for opportunities for the next race season,” he said. “Especially in the World Touring Car Championship, the number of available drives is limited and as a driver, you always hope to be in again. For me, driving a BMW 320 TC with the new 1.7 litre turbo engine for ROAL Motorsport is a new step in my career. The brand is not new to me as I already raced a Carly Motors-BMW in the European Touring Car Championship in the past. After that, I competed in the WTCC with SEAT for six years with many nice results and two Independents' titles.
“Now, a new chapter is about to begin. It all started with a phone call by Roberto Ravaglia asking me to come to Italy. There, we did a deal pretty soon. The plan for the team is to run one car in the FIA WTCC, where I can work with an entire team with several mechanics and engineers. Of course, our aim is to win races and to compete for the title. That can certainly be achieved. The team is very experienced and determined and has won races in the WTCC with Alex Zanardi and Sergio Hernandez not too long ago. Moreover, there will be plenty of opportunities for testing. All this is making me very confident that we can race for victories this year.”
Coronel is delighted to have the chance to work with Ravaglia. “I have the feeling that I won the Italian lottery and hit the jackpot!,” he said. “This is so great to work with the ROAL team and especially Roberto Ravaglia. I even raced with him in the early nineties. The ROAL team I know for many years, the ETCC and later the WTCC, this is a race winning team! What also helps is that the Roberto raced himself and does have a lot of experience as a racing driver and now as a team owner. This improves the communication, understanding and technical know-how inside the team. The most important thing after that is the Italian racing blood, this is unique and an experience by itself.”
ROAL Motorsport ran the BMW Team Italy-Spain operation in the WTCC until BMW reduced its commitment to the WTCC for 2010. During its absence from the WTCC, it has raced successfully in the Italian-based Superstars Series, which it won with driver Thomas Biagi.
Ravaglia is pleased to return his team to the WTCC, which he won as a driver in 1987. “The comeback in FIA WTCC, alongside the commitment in the Superstars Series, will constitute a rich sportive programme that makes ROAL Motorsport the only team present in both the two most important touring International championships,” he explained. “Lately, we worked hard on the organization of all human and technical resources within the team to guarantee the maximum autonomy to both activities and the contribution of a fast and well-experienced driver like Tom Coronel will be a further added value for the team. The technical package devised by BMW Motorsport is certainly interesting and I believe it will allow customer teams to aim at high level results“.
Coronel has released an artist's impression of the BMW that he will race, which will be liveried in the dark blue colours of his long-term sponsor McGregor.