SEAT left the FIA World Touring Car Championship after the 2009 season. SUNRED Engineering took over the program for 2010 and had a successful season with Gabriele Tarquini finishing second in the championship and a total of eight victories, more than any other brand this season. TouringCarTimes met up with SUNRED team boss Joan Orus.
TcT: Tell us a bit about your background.
“I left SEAT Sport after 7 years, working in different areas as GT Project Manager, responsible of WRC 2001-2002 and responsible of different departments as homologation, bodyshell, simulation… In 2006 i created SUNRED because my idea was to have a company with the potential to create new cars, and a team racing in high level championship.”
TcT: There was a lot of doubt in 2010 whether SR Sport should be treated as a semi-private, or fully private team. How would you describe its status precisely? Was the enterprise still financed by SEAT in any way?
“SR Sport and SUNRED are two teams, private teams. But in the WTCC championship we have decided to put one fighting for the official championship and one fighting for rookie championship, for that we have two names. SEAT is a dealer and we have technical support from them. We paid for that service and it is clear that SEAT have tried to do the best to help us.”
TcT: With SR Sport formed close to the season start, what were the pre-season goals and expectations of the newly formed team?
“The idea was to fight in all races, because we had a good car and good drivers. We knew from the start that was really difficult to win the title, but at least we finished very close to Chevrolet and in front of BMW. So we are very satisfied with this result.”
TcT: The 2010 season became successful with eight SEAT victories and Tarquini finishing second in the championship. A season to be proud of?
“I am really proud with the global result. Because we won and we fought with many different drivers, not just with one. Gabriele was in front during the season, but Tiago and Jordi won races and Tom Coronel, Fredy Barth on podium. Nykjaer lost out two times because in the lead because of punctures”
TcT: How hard was it after Okayama when your team had to realize that you were outside the title race with just one race to go?
“It was very hard, because we were in front with Gabriele and Nykjaer. With that result we could really have fought for the championship. But races are like this, so we will try again in the future.”
TcT: After Macau, Gabriele said he would have accepted to finish second in the championship, had someone offered it before the start of the season. Do you share his opinion?
“Yeah, sure. During the season, we felt that anything was possible, especially with a talented drivers such as Gabriele. But nobody [should] forget that Chevrolet have used five times our budget for each car in comparison. So at the beginning, we thought this result was going to be really difficult to achieve.”
TcT: With such a large number of drivers involved in your program, what are the qualities/characteristics of your drivers that you appreciate most?
“Tarquini is the fastest one and has best level of consistency. Gene, he is all the time working for the team and is very fast in qualifying. Monteiro knows how to take advantages of the opportunities and how to control the race when he is in front. Coronel needs more time to improve in qualifying, he is very strong in races.”
TcT: If you take away the mishaps that prevented Tarquini from joining the title race, do you think Tarquini could have beaten Yvan Muller or was Chevrolet too strong?
“Without puncture in Monza or Tarquini’s error in Okayama, it would have been possible to win. Tarquini really have demonstrated that he is the fastest driver on the championship.”
TcT: Speaking of the season end, why did you set Jordi Gené out of the game in Okayama and Macau and bring in Michael Rossi and André Couto?
“It was because of budget problems. Really, we think that Jordi Gene is an incredible driver who should be in the WTCC.”
TcT: What are the future plans of SUNRED Engineering in 2011?
“Currently we are trying to close deals with a number drivers. I hope we can come back with six cars and fight for the championship.”
TcT: TDi engines are still allowed in WTCC in 2011. Does your team intend to keep using them in WTCC or are there plans to switch to the new 1.6 liter turbo engine?
“It is clear that we will start with diesel engine and we will try to change to 1.6 turbo engine as soon as possible.”
Interview done by Aleksandar Babic.