Britain’s newest top-level racing driver, Tom Boardman, heads off to Brazil for this weekend’s opening rounds of the FIA World Touring Car Championship at Curitiba (March 7/8) feeling fully prepared, despite the lack of pre-season testing in the SUNRED Engineering-run SEAT Leon.
The talented 25 year old will make the long trip from his home in Forton, Lancashire to Curitiba, a one-hour flight inland from Sao Paulo, for the first pair of 24 races which will see him compete in Mexico, Morocco, France, Spain, Czech Republic, Portugal, UK (at Brands Hatch in July), Germany, Italy, Japan and finally in Macau at the end of November.
Tom started racing stock cars in 1993 when he was just nine-years old, and since then he has raced in the British Touring Car Championship (2001 to 2003) and the SEAT one-make series (2004 to 2008)and won five racing titles – including the SEAT Cupra Championship in the UK (2005) and in Spain (2008).He is one of three British drivers contesting this year’s WTCC, but unlike Andy Priaulx (BMW) and Rob Huff (Chevrolet), the youngest British competitor on the grid will be contesting the Independents’ Trophy in his rookie season.
Tom will race the same SEAT Leon in which he made his WTCC debut at the Estoril circuit in Portugal last year, although this time it will be powered by the latest upgraded 2 litre TFSi petrol engine. When Tom makes his way onto the fast and bumpy 11 turn, 2.3 mile Curitiba track it will the first time he has driven a race car for 19 weeks – as he hasn’t raced since winning the SEAT Leon Supercopa title at the Circuitde Catalunya near Barcelona on November 2.
Whilst many things, not least the South American track, located on a plateau 932 metres above sea level, will be new to Tom, he will have familiar faces working with him as the Barcelona-based SUNRED team are the same team that worked with Tom at Estoril, engineering the same chassis that took him to a 3rd place finish in the WTCC Independents’ Trophy category.
The 2009 Independents’ championship looks like having its most competitive season, with competition coming from several experienced drivers including Tom’s SUNRED team-mate Tom Coronel (SEAT), who was Independents’ Champion in 2006.He’ll also be racing against the 2007 Champion Stefano D’Aste (BMW), last year’s runner-up Franz Engstler (BMW), WTCC double-race winner Félix Porteiro (BMW) and his old Supercopa and Eurocup adversary Marin Colak (SEAT).
Tom Boardman said: “I’ve really focused on getting mentally and physically ready for the start of the season, and I’m better prepared now than I have ever been.I’ve been going to the gym every day and I’ve been learning the Curitiba circuit every night on my new RACE Pro Xbox 360 game – and the first thing I’m going to do when I get to Brazil is combine the two and go for a jog around the circuit!
“I’m really looking forward to starting my first full season in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.I feel I’m ready for it.I’ve raced on half of the circuits in the calendar before and I don’t think it will be a disadvantage going to the others for the first time, because I’ve always been able to learn a new track very quickly.
“My aim this year is to win the Independents’ World title – that’s what I’m going there to do. The competition is very good, not least my own team-mate, Tom Coronel, who is a former champion, but I think we can do it.The aim is to try and finish each race in the points and avoid non-points scoring results.Of course I’m going to push as hard as I can and try to win the Independents’ category in each race and try and score the best overall results I can, but from round one of the series in Brazil onwards I’ll be thinking of the title.”