Tiago Monteiro has admitted that new rules will make it difficult for SEAT through the early stages of the World Touring Car Championship season, although the former F1 racer believes the Spanish marque will still challenge for the title in 2009.
SEAT ended BMW's run of championship success last year, clinching the manufacturers' crown in the penultimate round of the year in Japan before Yvan Muller clinched the drivers' title in Macau – making him the first person other than Andy Priaulx to win the title since the series was re-launched.
However, the strong performance of the SEAT Leon TDi last season has led to new regulations being brought into play for 2009 in an effort to give more of a level playing field between the petrol and diesel cars on the grid and Monteiro admitted that it would make the season ahead tough.
“We know it will be hard to defend our title because of the new rules which are not really in our favour,” he said. “Therefore we will need to take the three first rounds to integrate the rules and we will see how to do that in the best possible way for our project.
“It will be hard but I am optimistic. SEAT is a professional and extremely motivated team. In 2008, among other things, we always coped with having a heavier car. This year, I think we will be able to fight with the front runners even though it might not be the case in Brazil."