Briton Tom Boardman has become the second driver to secure a one of drive in the World Touring Car Championship following his success in the latest rounds of the SEAT Leon Eurocup at Pau.
Former BTCC racer Boardman secured a win and fourth place on the challenging French street circuit and will now take up a drive with the SUNRED Engineering team in a SEAT Leon TFSi for the two races at Estoril next month, where he will partner former Independents' champion Tom Coronel.
Having taken pole position in a wet qualifying session, Boardman led from start-to-finish in the dry opening race, although he was helped when second placed Eoin Murray went off into the barriers and was forced to retire. It left Boardman with a winning margin of nearly five seconds over Marin Colak, who held off the challenge of Diego Puyol for second place.
With the top eight reversed for the second race, Boardman managed to come home just off the podium in fourth place after a long battle with Andrea Larini edging him out of third place.
Hungarian driver Gabor Weber took victory in the race but the combined results from the weekend mean Boardman will now look forward to making his debut in the WTCC on Portguese in July.
“I was so looking forward to going back and racing at Pau; it's such a fantastic circuit and it makes me realise why I love racing so much,” Boardman enthused. “Overtaking is difficult, so my first aim was to qualify on pole. I was hoping it would be wet in qualifying because I was confident we'd be quicker than everyone else. It was very wet, the car was working perfectly and I pulled everything out to get that pole position - which we did.
“The pile up in the first race proved how important starting from pole position was, and after the restart I was able to control the pace of the race and lead from start to finish. Marin Colak had finished second, so I knew that if I could finish one place behind him in race two, that would be good enough for me to win the race weekend overall, because the way it's all worked out I'd have a better aggregate. We started the second race together on row four, but he spun out on the first corner. I could still lose the win if I'd retired, but I also wanted to finish on the podium. I got up behind Andrea Larini, but he was blocking me and on such a narrow track there was no way past. I didn't want to risk not finishing the race, so I came home in fourth to make sure I won the works drive with SEAT Sport.”
Lancashire racer Boardman admitted that it still hadn't sunk in that he will be lining up on the WTCC grid in little more than a month's time against some of the top touring car drivers in the world, but said he was confident of making the most of the opportunity ahead of him.
“I don't think the prize is going to sink in until I go into the drivers' briefing at Estoril with all the other World Touring Car drivers and sit down with the likes of Andy Priaulx, Gabriele Tarquini, Alex Zanardi and all the other greats and realise that I'll be racing them!” he said. “I know the Estoril circuit because I raced there two years ago and I just cannot wait to get there. I'm looking forward to it so much; words cannot explain how I'm feeling right now.”