RML will remain on the grid in this year’s World Touring Car Championship, fielding a pair of Chevrolet Cruzes for three-time champion Yvan Muller and their new signing Tom Chilton.
After eight years running Chevrolet’s programme in the WTCC, RML will enter as an independent team this season, which is believed to be a holding pattern before a new works programme begins in 2014.
“Our partnership with Chevrolet reached a natural conclusion and whilst we are immensely proud of what we achieved, time moves on and we are treating this as a whole new challenge,” said RML Chief Executive Ray Mallock.
“Competition in the WTCC remains formidable and we do not underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead of us, particularly as we will have very limited pre-season testing.”
Yvan Muller, who won the drivers’ title twice for the team in 2010 and 2011, will stay on and for the first time in his touring car career will not be part of a manufacturer programme, after having previously raced for SEAT, Vauxhall, Audi and BMW prior to his three year spell with Chevrolet.
“I’m very fired-up for the new season and highly motivated to challenge for the title again,” said Muller. “I have been with RML for four years and I am very happy to continue our long association. I have the highest respect for the team and a lot of faith in their ability to prepare and race a winning car.”
Although effectively an independent team after Chevrolet’s departure, it’s certain that under the rules of the independents’ trophy, Yvan Muller will not be eligible in that category just as Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Coronel and Tiago Monteiro haven’t been in recent years due to their ex-works driver status.
Muller’s new team-mate will be 27-year-old Tom Chilton, who moves over from Arena Motorsport. It’ll be Chilton’s second season in the WTCC after nine years in the British Touring Car Championship, and will be his best opportunity to fight at the front in the highly developed Cruze 1.6T. It remains to be seen as to whether Chilton will be deemed eligible for the independents’ trophy, as RML’s record in the Championship alone could preclude anyone driving for the team from competing for the trophy.
Tom Chilton’s continued presence in the WTCC along with his brother Max’s debut in Formula One for Marussia will mean there are Chiltons competing in two of the three FIA World Championships in 2013.
“2013 is looking very exciting for me,” added Chilton. “Last year was a real learning curve, both in terms of getting used to a new championship and in quickly adapting to new circuits. Now I have the experience and my target for this year is to be competitive from the start and to focus on consistent podium-worthy performance. RML is a top team and I really can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Cruze. I know there is a lot to learn quickly, but I believe I am with one of the best teams to teach me.”
Of RML’s former drivers, Rob Huff, who won the title with RML last season, has already confirmed he will be driving for Münnich Motorsport this season in one of their SEAT Leóns, whilst RML’s other driver Alain Menu, who finished as runner-up last year in one of his strongest seasons to date, plans to announce his new programme at the Geneva Motor Show on Wednesday.