One of the most visible, if not successful touring cars of the last decade is the SEAT Leon S2000 race car. Surpassed only by the BMW 320Si, the SEAT has been the choice of many drivers and teams in National and World Touring Car Championships.
The SEAT Leon Cupra is a 5 door hatchback based loosely on the Golf ‘A5′ platform and available in Europe and parts of South America. This is the second generation of the Leon and is regarded as one of the better hot-hatches in the European marketplace.
SEAT Sport entered touring car racing in 2003 in the European Touring Car championship with the SEAT Toledo Cupra. The Toledo was the saloon/sedan version of the 1st generation Leon. SEAT took their first victory the following year, while the UK division of SEAT entered the British Touring Car Championship with Jason Plato and Rob Huff.
The SEAT Leon ‘S2000′ replaced the Toledo, making its debut in the hands of Yvan Muller at 2005 Oscehleben round of the renamed World Touring Car Championship, Muller won later in the season. SEAT ran a mixture of Toledo and Leon (above) in the World series for the rest of the season. The British team continued with the Toledo.
As with other S2000 cars, the cars run a wider track and aerodynamic bodykit. The front bumper includes a splitter and air is directed into the engine lower down . Note the stock grille is blanked off. At the rear, a rear spoiler, size set by S2000 regulations is fixed to the rear tailgate and is positioned in line with the top of the roof and the rear edge of the car.
The racecars are designed so large parts of the car can be changed quickly.
Lots of nudges in touring car racing, so the front bumper need to be removed quickly. here you can see the headlamps and cross member are one carbon part, while the bumper cover is seperate.
The BTCC team shown changing the bumper in 2008
This image shows the latest front bumper, splitter and aerodynamic front floor
The interior is typical S2000 racecar, with the driver positioned between the b-pillars low down, keeping the centre of gravity low.
Cabin is stripped out and only the top of the dashboard is used, and that’s only because regulations specify this.
All the racecars are built at SEAT Sports base in Barcelona.
The Leon was used by all seven works cars for 2006 in the WTCC. The works programme was ambitious, so French team, ORECA were brought into assist in running a number of the cars. A number of wins contributed to runners up in the WTCC.
Privateer, Tom Cornel also ran a Leon later in the season taking the Independents Championship with a 78 point margin! Coronel was banned from competing in the Independents cup he following year!
Over in Britain, Jason Plato, Darren Turner and James Thompson competed in the 2006 BTCC season in their new Leons. SEAT took the manufactures title, winning 11 of the 30 rounds, but Jason narrowly missed out on a drivers title. Note, the British team using the original front bumper design early in the season.
2007 was an important year for SEAT. The Leon TDI made its debut at the Swedish round of the WTCC with Yvan Muller. Muller took victory later in the year at Oscehersleben, the first victory for a Diesel engine in a FIA World Championship. Muller and team-mate Gene won again in Monza, later in the season. Bridesmaid once again in the drivers and manufactures championship. BMW drivers often had the edge and ultimately the World Drivers Title went to Andy Priaulx again.
SEAT worked with Audi and Dow Automotive, using experience from Audi’s R10 TDI race car. At the time, SEAT said they were unable to make their petrol Leon any more completive and were forced to run Diesel. Recent Privateer success with Petrol Leon, two years on, would suggest that it was probably more of a marketing decision…..
Externally, the TDI could be identified by a new grille air outlet on the top of the bonnet/hood and additional intakes in the front bumper.
In the UK, Jason Plato and Darren Turner continued with the Petrol engine cars for ‘07. The championship saw a season long battle between SEAT’s Jason Plato and Vauxhall’s Fabrizio Giovanardi, who eventually took the title. SEAT lost out on the Manufactures title, but took the team title with SEAT Sport UK.
The TDI unit was very dominant in the 2008 World Touring Car championship. After four successive title by Andy Priaulx, BMW were finally second best, with Yvan Muller taking the World Drivers title from team-mate Gabriele Tarqiuni and Chevrolet’s Rob Huff.
The torque and the turbo boost gave the TDI’s a big advantage, although the TDI had high tyre wear issues. You would often see the BMW and Chevrolets claw back time in the closing stages as SEAT struggled.
Meanwhile, privateer Leon’s grew in number, occasionally giving the works cars a run for their money.
SEAT were reluctant to allow any privateers to run a Diesel, so these runners were limited to running the older Petrol cars. A number of old chassis were also being used in various National championships including Denmark, Sweden and Britain.
SEAT Sport UK remained in the British series, now with new Yellow and Green livery. Delivery of the new TDI cars were late and very little pre-season testing was available. It was their title to lose…..
The team struggled early on with a set up and reliability problems. Rumours of lack of support from SEAT Spain didn’t help. It wasn’t until mid-season that SEAT Sport UK finally got a handle on the set up and the team started winning races.
However it was too little too late. Continued Reliability issues resulted in at least one DNF for each driver at each race weekend and Vauxhall took the manufactures and drivers championship.
At the end of the year, SEAT Sport UK announced they were pulling out of motorsport leaving Plato and Turner without drives. Turner has returned to full-time Sports car racing with Aston Martin and Nissan, while Plato has joined RML, winning in the BTCC. One of his first comments, heard at Brands Hatch…. ‘At least it’s not a bloody Diesel’.
SEAT Sport lost their Red Bull sponsorship for 2009 but they continued in the World series with five works cars.
As before, running of the cars were split between SEAT Sport and ORECA, although all cars are entered by SEAT Sport. A number of privateers are also competing, but once again they are limited to petrol units.
SEAT started the season off well winning in Brazil and Mexico, but regular Speedhunters will know that FIA changed their rules for Turbo Pressure at short notice prior to Pau, after a protest from BMW. It transpired that the FIA and SEAT had allowed a tolerance for the turbo pressure,,,which no one else knew about! This didn’t go down well with BMW. Taking the tolerance away robbed SEAT of top end performance with their cars now languishing at the tail of the field. Tarquini and Muller only really scored points in race two thanks to the reversed grid.
With Valencia round of the WTCC around the corner, the FIA have now announced that a (slightly reduced) tolerance for Turbo Pressure will be allowed from now on, which makes Pau even more of a farce.
Two of the most competitive independent Leon’s in this years WTCC are Tom Coronel, above in his Sunred SEAT Leon….
…Tom Boardman, who started the year off in a Sunred machine, but his family run team now runs this ex 2008 SEAT Sport UK car, coverted to petrol.
In Britain, two petrol Leon’s remain with new team CVT racing.
Adam Jones continues with the Leon for a second year, while Dan Eaves returns to the championship in a 2nd CVT car. It’s a new team, but Jones has already been on the podium.
Thanks to the guys at SEATCupra.net for the help with this car feature and images. Additional images from Peter Still at PSP-Images.co.uk, SEAT and SEATCupra.net.
WTCC spec SEAT Leon TDI Specifications
2000cc Turbocharged 4 cylinder 16 valve Diesel engine 280CV at 4000rpm
Front Wheel drive
6 Speed Hewland sequential shift gearbox, Limited Slip Differential
McPherson front suspension, multi link rear axle
Front brakes – 4 piston callipers, 332mm steel ventilated discs
Rear brakes – 2 piston callipers, 280mm steel discs
9×17 Borbet Alloy Wheels with Yokohama (WTCC) 240/60 R17