SEAT has confirmed that it will continue with its highly successful customer programme rather than entering fully works-supported efforts in next year’s FIA World Touring Car Championship.
Next year’s SEAT runners will again use the venerable León, which has been part of the WTCC landscape since late 2005.
The Spanish carmaker’s last full works effort came in 2009 when it won the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ crowns with Gabriele Tarquini leading the charge.
Since then, it has maintained a privateer presence on the grid, largely fronted by the SUNRED Engineering concern, which ran the cars independently in 2010 and 2011, developing a purpose-built 1.6-litre turbo engine with the Lehmann concern in the latter season.
This year, SUNRED was joined by former British Touring Car Championship outfit Special Tune Racing, along with the Russian racing outfit, Lukoil Racing. Both fielded two-car efforts for the majority of the season.
Despite it being the oldest model on the grid, SEAT has continued to support upgrades to the León over the course of the 2012 season, including revisions to the car’s bodywork and brakes, as well as supporting the development of a competitive ORECA-built 1.6-litre turbo engine.
With the FIA planning to introduce a host of new technical regulations into the championship by as soon as the 2014 season, SEAT has opted to hold back on committing itself to a works entry – and a new car – until the rules are ironed out, and instead plug away for another year with customer Leóns for SUNRED Engineering and Special Tune Racing.
Those two outfits will be joined by FIA GT1 championship winners Münnich Motorsport, who announced they will run a three-car effort next year using the cars raced by Lukoil Racing in 2012.
Lukoil Racing, meanwhile, is on the verge of announcing that it will tie in with LADA’s full-time return to the WTCC next year.
“We shall investigate what we can do with this car and support the customers with this,” SEAT Sport Director Jaime Puig told the TouringCarTimes website during the season-ending round at Macau last weekend.
“The engine has been very good, it has lasted all year. At the start we had our doubts, but now we know it’s reliable,” he added.
The 2014 grid is expected to grow its manufacturer presence, with Citroën hinting that it will front a works effort for multiple World Rally Championship winner Sebastien Loeb, while another (as yet unnamed) manufacturer is believed to be joining.
“For central SEAT, officially we don’t have any plan to enter [a works effort in 2014],” Puig added, when asked about SEAT’s long-term strategy.
“We have always said we will support the customers. For 2014, we have to wait for what the rules are, but we have a nice base to work on because the new León is on the road and it’s very good, but we have to see.”
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