SEAT Sport has begun the countdown for the start of the World Touring Car Championship’s 2009 season on Brazil’s Curitiba track next 8 March with the goal of repeating the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles won in 2008.
The team is working with an intense schedule in response to the FIA’s technical decisions limiting the output of the Diesel engine used on the León TDI, which has led to a performance reduction of 18 hp.
The tests carried out on the Estoril, Catalunya and Valencia tracks are structured around recuperating this power output by other means. To get the best settings on the cars, the SEAT Sport engineers have established a detailed work plan before each of the race days. The cars need a week of preparation prior to the two days of racing, including the parts, a study of the driver’s and his engineer’s daily activities and of course, a complete study of each individual car.
Three SEAT León TDI units and fifteen mechanics are sent to each testing session. The cars are raced by three drivers, and one of them repeats the following day. A typical day begins at nine in the morning and ends at five in the afternoon with an hour for lunch. On a test day, each driver and car puts in 350 km in two stages – the short ones, of 2-3 laps to try out all kinds of improvements, and the longer sessions, to analyse the car and any modifications made during a race distance.
Once the track has been closed, the activities continue in the boxes where the mechanics work for four more hours to prepare the cars for the following day in terms of new parts to try out and adapting the car to the drivers replacing the previous day’s. The new drivers and their engineers get together for a technical meeting where they exchange opinions and results so they can analyse all the options and make the right decisions for the car’s settings.
These test sessions are vital because grid positions and victories at the WTCC are often achieved by split-second margins. All of the competitors are evenly matched, and all the slight improvements that help the León achieve the best performance mean going into each race, where there is no time for hesitation, with the best guarantees for finishing in the leading positions.
At the test session which finished yesterday on the Circuit de Catalunya, the SEAT Sport team paid special attention to the suspension settings and adjustments with satisfactory results. As Xavi Serra, SEAT Sport’s head track engineer pointed out, ‘The test sessions give us the chance to try out technical solutions that can’t be tested on a race weekend. The work and the information shared by the five team drivers is vital prior to the initial championship races. The first race is getting closer and closer, and we have to define the basic set-up we’re going to use when the world championship begins.