Popular Dutch racer, Tom Coronel, will be back for his eighteenth full campaign at the top tier of international touring car racing during 2019. The 46 year-old will partner up with Belgian team, Comtoyou Racing, where he will pilot a Cupra TCR alongside the previously-confirmed French youngster, Aurelien Panis.
The move marks a shift from last year, as he will leave behind the Honda Civic Type R TCR prepared by Boutsen Ginion Racing that he competed with throughout the 2018 season. The year was far from straightforward for Coronel, who ended the season 23rd in the drivers’ championship standings. With that in mind, a change of environment and machinery may not be such a bad thing as he looks to recover his front-running form from years gone by.
However, Coronel is no stranger to racing for the Spanish marque – or their parent company at least – as he made his name in touring car racing throughout the 2000s behind the wheel of a SEAT Leon. In fact, it was behind the wheel of a Leon that Coronel scored his first ever race victory in the series back in 2008. Now, back behind the wheel of the Leon’s spiritual successor, Coronel is optimistic about what lies ahead.
The Dutchman explained how his move to Comtoyou Racing came about, saying: “My contact with the team started at the end of last year. After the races at Macau, I spoke with Kurt Mollekens. He is a former teammate of mine in the Opel Lotus Euroseries 1994 and currently is an engineer at Comtoyou Racing from Waterloo in Belgium. Our conversation got me thinking and after some discussions with the team led by François Verbist and Jean-Michel Baert, we made a deal for the upcoming season. Jaime Puig, the former team manager of the SEAT WTCC team, also played an important role in the process. With SEAT, I have had quite some success. The cars are being built at the CUPRA headquarters in Spain and are fine-tuned by Comtoyou Racing. Every weekend, a CUPRA technician will be present.”
As ever, Coronel is once again backed by his loyal title sponsor, DHL, who are celebrating a milestone this year. He goes on to explain: “The contract also includes some test days, the first of them on 27 and 28 February when I will be driving a CUPRA at Zandvoort, albeit still with a plain white livery. Eventually, the car will get its familiar yellow DHL colour and my starting number for the upcoming season is 50. With that number, I want to put DHL as a sponsor in the limelight as they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and this seemed like a nice gesture to me. All the other sponsors from last year remained involved, so the rest of the car will also be a familiar sight for everyone. That can also be said about the second car, also yellow, to be driven by Aurélien Panis.”
Head of Cupra racing operations, Jaime Puig, took the time to reflect on past successes that Coronel had achieved with the Spanish marque. He said: “I am delighted that Tom Coronel has chosen CUPRA and I hope that we can achieve some nice results together again. I have known Tom since he started racing touring cars in 2001, he raced for our brand for several years already. He scored his maiden victory with a SEAT at Okayama back in 2008. There, Tom had a special mix of tyres, slicks on the front wheels and rain tyres on the rear wheels. I will never forget that! That is something he could repeat this year.”
On a final note, Coronel assessed his performance targets for the 2019 season, knowing that he’d face stern opposition from all members of the #WTCR2019SUPERGRID. Here’s what he had to say: “After last season, it should be possible to enjoy the occasional ‘moment of fame’. It will not be easy as many famous drivers from the past will be making their return to the championship. On the other hand, I have a lot of confidence in the car and in the team and let’s hope that I will have luck on my side again this year. Especially with the early and thorough preparation, but also with one year of WTCR experience, it should be possible for me to compete for podium finishes on occasion.”
“It will not be easy, opposition is strong, but we have ten race weekends with three races each to make it happen. Let’s hope we can steer clear from any damage and can be competitive. I will fight for it, I am really eager to race! Eat My Dust ehhh CHEESE!”