Although the Leon TDi has proven its credentials on street circuits in the past, the SEAT Sport team will enter unchartered territory this weekend as the car makes its World Touring Car Championship debut in Pau.
Yvan Muller qualified on the front row in Macau last season, and although a mechanical issue then derailed his championship challenge, team-mate Gabriele Tarquini was able to secure a podium finish to show the potential of the diesel-powered Leon in a street racing environment.
Now the team will travel to Pau for the first time with the Leon TDi leading both the drivers' championship – through Tarquini – and the manufacturers' standings, having won four of the six races run to date.
With the leading Leons also forced to carry extra weight this weekend due to their championship positions, the SEAT drivers will face an extra challenge and chief track engineer Xavi Serra admitted that the ballast would play a major part in the weekends racing.
"According to our simulations, Pau is the circuit where the ballast weight is the biggest drawback per kilometre of the entire championship," he said. "As at all the tracks that are new for the SEAT Leon TDI, we have doubts as to its performance. In principle, the Leon should perform well on 70 per cent of the track, but it will be tough going on the remaining 30 per cent. However, we expect to be competitive throughout the entire race.
"Pau is a track where Chevrolet dominated last year and where Farfus won the second race with his BMW, so this year is a toss-up for the Manufacturers' title. Any car could get in the lead, and the differences will be decided by the ballast weight and the drivers' skills at the wheel, since an urban track produces more driving differences among participants than any with the same equipment."