SEAT Sport believe they will be the team to beat when the World Touring Car Championship makes its return to the Imola circuit following revisions that have transformed it into being a high-speed venue.
Although the majority of the circuit is unchanged, the final corner chicane has been eliminated, meaning the run up from Rivazza and Tamburello is flat out and more than a kilometre long.
Also removing a heavy-braking area, which has been a SEAT weakness this year, the diesel Leon' superior straight-line speed compared to its closest rivals is likely to pay dividends instead.
As such, home driver Gabriele Tarquini is confident of a good performance at the former San Marino Grand Prix venue.
“The only change to the track is the new asphalt from Rivazza to Tosa – the rest is identical. But this time it's faster, and we have to make a critical braking decision right after the pitboxes. Eliminating the Variante Bassa is one less problem for our car, since its extra weight makes it harder than others to execute steering changes.”
It is a sentiment shared by Xavi Serra, SEAT chief track engineer, who believes the high-speed layout will be beneficial to them.
“The most important difference is that the track speed is no longer average. It has become a high-speed circuit and the straight is over a kilometre long after eliminating the chicane by the finish line. This gives us one less steering change and no need to brake, and that will be good for our car on a track that pushes brakes to the limit.”