Yvan Muller has praised the SEAT Sport team after clinching the 2008 World Touring Car Championship with a pair of podiums in the final round of the season at Macau.
While the Frenchman was considered a champion-elect as he entered the weekend with a comfortable 14-point advantage over team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, recollections of his heart-breaking retirement whilst heading for the 2007 title meant he refused to get complacent until the chequered flag fell.
In the end, Tarquini could only muster two points, while a third and second place finish for Muller means he ends the season with a decent 26-point buffer over the Italian. For him, it goes a long way to banishing the memory of the innocuous mechanical fault that prevented him from winning a year earlier.
“One year ago exactly I came here and I was very sad,” he said. “Finally one year later I am here on top of the world. When you lose a race you are remind it for weeks and months, and even more. When you win, you forget quite quickly, but I shall remember this for a long time.
Only the second winner of the modern-era WTCC following Andy Priaulx's three-year streak, Muller also becomes the first driver to win the title driving a diesel-powered car.
The first full-season for the pioneering, albeit controversial, Leon TDI, Muller hailed the Spanish team for providing him with a winning car, whilst he also paid tribute to his team-mates for the camaraderie shown throughout the year.
“You have to do your best to win the title, but at the same time you have to have a great team to give you that opportunity. SEAT gave me that opportunity.
“I also have to say thank you to my mechanics and to all my team mates, because we all progressed together and work together during the season. And even yesterday we were sharing some information with Gabriele, and that is quite fantastic in a team. We have a real team spirit at SEAT!”
Muller was also on the receiving end of congratulations, with Alain Menu and Priaulx, all of which were rivals in the British Touring Car Championship, lending their admiration for him.
“Firstly I would like to congratulate Yvan,” said race one winner Menu. “He already knows I am very pleased for him and I think he really deserved to be world champion, especially after last year. SEAT did a very good job, they had the best package.”
“It is an honour to give the championship to a quality driver, and both Yvan and Gabriele are such drivers,” Priaulx added. “Gabriele gave me his European title in 2004 and I now hand the World title to Yvan. Is a lot easier when you have been beaten by a good driver.”