Up to eight SEAT Leóns could be on the grid full-time for the 2012 World Touring Car Championship, in the wake of British outfit Special Tune Racing’s recent announcement that it would field a two-car operation as a factory-supported SEAT team.
Last year’s championship saw BMW have the lion’s share of vehicles on the grid, but this year SEAT could well be similarly represented, with the suggestion that up to eight of the hatchbacks could be represented, with the expectation that SUNRED Engineering will field six cars, as it did in 2011.
Where SUNRED may differ from Special Tune Racing is that it could elect to continue with the smoky 1.6-litre turbo engine it ran in 2011 – a unit developed by the Lehmann Racing engine builders – rather than opt for the SEAT-developed turbo engine that STR will run.
What is equally unknown is who SUNRED will run in 2012. Only one of its drivers, 17-year-old Pepe Oriola, is confirmed for 2012, although it is expected that veteran racer Tiago Monteiro will also remain on board.
The futures of its other four drivers – Gabriele Tarquini, Fred Barth, Michel Nykjær and Aleksei Dudukalo – are less certain.
Tarquini is known to be unhappy with his last two seasons with SUNRED in the wake of SEAT’s decreased level of support, and he was rumoured to be jumping ship to Volvo for 2012, although a role with the new AON Ford team seems more likely.
Swiss racer Barth had a horror season, repeatedly getting caught up in accidents not of his own making. He finished in the points on just four occasions, and prematurely ended his season with a violent accident during practice at Macau, in which he suffered concussion.
Despite a strong finish to his season, Nykjær’s prospects look troubled when he had a falling out with his backers, Pole Position Denmark, who sacked him for alleged breach of contract.
Dudukalo’s role with the team came with backing from Russian petroleum group Lukoil, and while he didn’t disgrace himself, he was generally the slowest of SUNRED’s runners all seasons.
[Images via FIA WTCC Media]