« I have had plenty of pleasure, but, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to score any points, » Tom Coronel reported after the ninth race weekend in the FIA World Touring Car Championship season. As the engine in Coronel’s ROAL Motorsport-Chevrolet RML Cruze had to be replaced prior to qualifying, Coronel had to start from the back of the grid for the first race. Due to a loose intercooler hose, he was lacking engine power in qualifying, meaning that Coronel also had to start from last place on the grid for the second race.
Eventually, he was classified 17th in the first ace and finished 14th in the second race. « But the experience of being back to race in Japan, the nation that I still consider as my second home country, was even more important. It is fantastic to see how the people are still enthusiastic for me, » the Dutch driver said.
The problem that led to the engine change occurred in first free practice. « The brakes didn’t work and I shifted down, but that meant I over-revved the engine and that was the end of that engine, » Coronel explained. « The team did a fantastic job in changing the engine within two hours. Qualifying thus actually was the shakedown, the first time for us to use the new engine, but unfortunately, the hose of the intercooler wasn’t properly attached, so that I had a considerable lack of engine power. That prevented me from setting any fast lap times, so that I not only had to start the first race from the back of the grid, as the regulations say in case of an engine change, but also the second race, simply because I didn’t have enough speed. »
In the first race, Coronel made a good start and he was able to make up a few positions right away. « At this circuit, overtaking isn’t really easy, but I still had some nice battles. I was stuck behind Japanese Honda driver Ryo Michigami for a long time and I ended up behind him, crossing the finish line in twelfth place. After the race, I was given a 30 seconds’ time penalty as a substitute for a ‘stop and go’, because our car didn’t have its wheels on the asphalt on the starting grid at the time that was required. That was too bad, of course, but as I hadn’t finished in the top ten anyway, it didn’t cost me any points. »
In the second race, Coronel again attempted to make up some positions, something he did during the opening stage in particular. « Once again, I had a few nice battles which I really enjoyed. This time, I managed to find a way past Michigami and I had an intense fight with Hugo Valente, as it is the case with him so often. I enjoyed the racing, but unfortunately, it didn’t bring me any points. Prior to this weekend, we knew that the Chevrolets would be having a hard time here and that showed, because in none of the races, any Chevrolet made it into the top ten. Now, we focus on the next race weekend at the circuit of Shanghai. There, I qualified tenth last year and started from pole position for the reversed grid race. It would be nice if we can repeat that this year. »
In general, Coronel still is positive about the weekend in Japan. « This country remains fascinating and it is fantastic to see what people still know about me, because I raced there for many years. I am asked for all the activities: autograph sessions, official functions, and then the fans show up with photos, autograph cards, scale model cars, fantastic! I almost got a flightcase full of presents, it is incredible to see how enthusiastic the people still are, even after so many years. That makes racing here always so nice. It is a very emotional affair and a fond memory for me to take home. »
Results Opening race FIA WTCC Japan:
1. Norbert Michelisz (Hon), 13 laps in 26:07,443,
2. Rob Huff (GBr), +1,358,
3. Tiago Monteiro (Por), all Honda Civic WTCC, +2,173,
4. José Mar