The final meeting of the WTCC in Macau always delivers excitement and drama, and this year’s edition lived up to its billing. Proceedings started on Thursday with a test session in which the team worked on the set up of the car, and Tom reacquainted himself with the track. Friday’s free practices started early, and Tom was consistent in both, being 11th in the first session then 10th in the second, and all looked good for qualification. Qualification would be important here as it is extremely difficult to overtake around the tight mountain section of the circuit. Luck was not with Tom and the team though. On the first flying lap the yellow flags came out as Couto slid off the track. Tom came back to the pits for a new set of tyres and waited for a clear track to emerge. Out again on another fastest first sector, this time Freddie Barth made contact with the barriers bringing out a red flag. Another new set of tyres for a last gasp attempt to make the top 12 and again things looked good. Having set the fastest first sector for anybody in the session, an 8th place looked on the cards when, on the final sector, the BMW’s got in the way and slowed Tom up. P14 was disappointing but places could definitely be made up.
After a day off on the Saturday, Tom continued where he left off on the Sunday morning warm up session, posting the fastest speed of anyone through the speed trap at Mandarin. It was then on to the first race. Both championships, the Drivers and Yokohama Independents trophies, were still to be decided. All the protagonists were ahead so making up places would be a challenge. From the rolling start the cars headed down the fast section 1 of the circuit looking to get an advantage into Lisboa, the start of the tight mountain section. Tom got away well but contact between D’Aste and Bennani ahead blocked off the track at Lisboa holding up every car behind the top six. As the first six continued off, Tom sustained damage to the rear of the car as he was held up trying to get through the incident. Tom and the remainder of the field finally managed to get going and then the race was on to try and chase down the leading pack. On lap 5, Rob Huff the championship leader dramatically crashed out, and Tom was now up to P10. Tom tried to catch Alex Macdowell ahead but couldn’t make ground and went on to finish 10th overall, P5 Independent.
Race 2 and the tension was rising for the championship. The packed crowds were buzzing with excitement and again Tom would start P14. On the grid the SEAT engineers were working hard to fix an engine issue and the team were worried. Tom got away for the formation lap then lined up for the start. Lights out, but the car didn’t move. Quickly though Tom managed to get it going and started the race, but he was now down in P20 with it all to do. On lap 3 he managed to pass Couto and Monje, then on lap 4 he was ahead of Chilton and Bennani before the safety car came out for the incident between Macdowall and Muller. With Coronel’s retirement after picking up debris from the crash, Tom was now in P12. With the safety car back in, Tom passed James Nash in the Ford before Pepe Oriola and Norbert Michelisz crashed out. Tom made up another place before the safety car came out for this incident and he finished an action packed race in P9, P5 independent.
Commenting after the races Tom said “It’s hard to explain how amazing Macau is until you have driven around it and brought it home. To get two top 10 finishes, especially starting from P14 is a great result. Since we have had the new engine from back in Brazil we have scored consistently well, I just wish we could have had it from the start of the season because I have only been competitive for the the last five events. That’s very frustrating for me! But, i would like to say a big thanks to all who have supported me over the season. Team, Sponsors and fans, all fantastic, and I hope to be racing again next season with your ongoing support.”
Tom finished P10 in the Yokohama trophy scoring 43 of his 51 points in the final five fly away rounds. Incidentally this is the same as Norbert Michelisz who won this years Yokohama Trophy.
The team will now await the arrival of the cars back in the UK in January. We are currently working on securing drivers and sponsorship for the 2013 season, and hope to be back for a strong WTCC campaign in 2013.