Multiple World Touring Car Championship title winner Andy Priaulx has said he expects a strong challenge from SEAT machinery in 2010, despite the Spanish manufacturer electing to quit the series.
SEAT confirmed what was widely expected last week with the news that its works programme would come to an end, with the manufacturer instead electing to focus on supporting customer teams.
The move has left a number of top drivers – including defending champion Gabriele Tarquini – looking for drives for the season ahead, but Priaulx said he felt there could be as many as six top line SEATs on the grid as privateer or semi-works efforts fighting for victory.
“They won't let the World Champion not drive at the end of the day will they?,” he told Crash.net
. “He [Tarquini] will be in something fast and alongside two very fast BMWs and three fast Chevrolets, I think there will be between four and six very quick SEATs as well. I think they will have a different name, but it will be pushed in the same way.
“Some of the privateers in recent years have also been quick and able to win races so I see it as something of a sabbatical for the WTCC but there are no easy years and it will be tough to get into the top eight.
“We'll see when the grid is announced how big it is as there are a lot of teams still sorting out their plans, which is a bit late, but you have that in all forms of motorsport globally at the moment. I think it's quite common when you have a recession for people to put plans together at the last minute, but I expect a tough year.”
One Leon TDi is already confirmed on the grid for 2010, with SUNRED Engineering acquiring a car for double European Touring Car Cup winner Michel Nykjaer.