A disappointing start for Tom Coronel
Can severe damage to the ROAL Motorsport car be repaired in time?
For Tom Coronel, the start of his 25th season in motor racing could hardly have been any worse. This weekend was a huge deception for the 42-year old Dutch driver, who didn’t make it to the finish in either of the races. Coronel had certainly hoped for a different first outing with his new race car, the ROAL Motorsport Chevrolet WTCC car built to the new TC1 specifications.
This season, cars in the World Touring Car Championship are running with an engine output of approximately 380 horsepower. The cars are also wider, lighter and have more downforce. The season opener at the Moulay El Hassan circuit also marked the introduction of the new weekend format including a third qualifying heat for the five fastest drivers. For Tom Coronel, qualifying at the over six kilometres long street circuit resulted into tenth place on the grid for the first race and first place for the reversed-grid second race.
For the Dutchman, both races came to an untimely end. Halfway through the first race, damage to the front end of the car forced him to come into the pits. A quick repair saw him making it back out onto the grid in time for race 2. This race, however, was only a brief affair. Honda driver Mehdi Bennani forced Tom Coronel, who was leading the race, into the wall, after which Coronel swerved across the track into the wall on the opposite side. Coronel was able to climb out of his car unscathed, but the car was seriously damaged. It still has to be seen whether the car can be repaired in time for the second round of the season, scheduled for next weekend. In an initial reaction, Coronel wasn’t very positive about that.
Tom Coronel’s comments
After the race, a disappointed Tom Coronel said: "The car is ’bannani’. This definitely isn’t good. It started with a little tap, which isn’t a problem, but he kept pushing and started turning to the right. There was nothing I could do, I was merely a passenger in my own car. I don’t really understand it. Mehdi is a friend of mine and I reckon he was determined to shine here in front of his home crowd, but he definitely overdid it. The damage to the car is massive. I don’t remember ever having had so much damage on a race car. Together with the ROAL Motorsport people, we took a good look at it and the bodyshell turned out to be damaged. These are not on stock, so it will be very difficult, of not impossible, to race next week. The car will be in Barcelona on Wednesday, but then we already have to leave to France to make it to the next race. However, to repair it, we have to be in England and there are no bodyshells in stock there. It really looks bad."
Tom Coronel was competitive during the rest of the weekend. "In free practice, I hit the walls here and there, but didn’t get any major damage. In qualifying, like many others, we missed the second outing. Nevertheless, I ended up tenth which gave me pole position for the second race. That looked pretty well. In the first race, I had a good start, but I didn’t take any risks. After Valente had spun in front of me, I felt some strange things on the car and I turned into the pits to have everything correct for the second race. That all went as planned, until the wall put a sudden end to my race."
A thrilling week
The upcoming week will be a thrilling affair. The ROAL Motorsport team members, who witnessed what happened on the screens, are just as disappointed as Coronel. For them, it now depends on the availability of spare parts and in particular a bodyshell. The question is whether that will work out. "These technicians have done some more jobs that were considered to be impossible," Tom Coronel points out. But he also remains realistic: "It doesn’t look good, but we will wait and see what happens."
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