30 January 2014
Chilton aims to impress with ROAL move
Tom Chilton tells how he thinks ROAL Motorsport can take the fight to its factory rivals during the 2014 WTCC season
Tom Chilton moves to new surroundings for the 2014 World Touring Car Championship season having inked a deal with ROAL Motorsport to drive a new TC1-spec Chevrolet Cruze.
It will be the third season for the Brit in the series, and with a third team having previously raced with Arena Motorsport and RML during the past two seasons.
Crash.net caught up with the 28-year-old to look back at 2013 and to discuss what the year ahead may hold...
When you look back at 2013, how do you feel about the season?
It was of the best seasons of racing in my career. RML are a fantastic team, and it was great to have Yvan Muller as my team-mate and to be able to learn from him. I've been racing at the top in the BTCC and WTCC for more than a decade, and it is amazing to think that you can still learn things from a driver after all that time.
I really enjoyed it and was on for second or third in the standings until Macau where I was fired off in both races. I didn't finish where I should have finished, but for my second season in the series, being fifth was still pretty awesome.
Was it hard to measure yourself up against the best driver on the grid with the level of success Yvan had?
I love to take the positives from things and it was nice to see where I was faster than him. When I could see I was quicker on fast corners, it was something that helped to make me mentally stronger for the year ahead.
The new cars are more powerful and lighter with more aero so will be quicker and the corners will be faster which is where I was strong. RML will build a good car for us, and I think it will suit my driving style more, I also think the experience I have from racing Le Mans cars will benefit me this year.
Your first year in the WTCC didn't go to plan with the Ford, so how important was it to have a good season last season and get that first win under your belt?
It was very important. 2012 was a tough year and as much as we wanted to get lots of points and podiums, we struggled to score. Although the team worked really, really hard with things, we couldn't get everything sorted on the car that we wanted to sort and it was difficult for us.
James and I had both won the Indy title in the BTCC before moving into the series, and despite the struggles in terms of results and the fact we were at the back of the grid, it was a great learning year as I was able to learn the circuits and learn about the tyres. I could also see how the other drivers drove on track, so it did help for 2013.
I think half the reason I did so well last year in a car I'd had no testing in before the season started was the experience I gained in 2012.
You have a new challenge this season with a new car and a new team. How much are you looking forward to it?
A lot. ROAL are a very professional team, and RML are building us a new car – and that is something they are fantastic at. Tom Coronel is a great driver and a real character, and I think we can have a good year together.
Do you have concerns over the fact that your car will be coming late on compared to the likes of Citroen – who have already been testing for some time?
We would like to test as much as Citroen, Honda and LADA but because the deal came together quite late, the car will only come a few weeks before the first round. They also have to be delivered to Italy, which will add to that time, so we will only have a few weeks to prepare.
But I have faith that RML will provide us with a good car and in 2014, it's very much a new championship for me. I was 4.5secs quicker in the Chevrolet last year than I was in the Ford in 2012 and we could be quicker by the same margin again this year. It's going to be totally different again.
While Citroen are new to the series, they'll be favourites with the running they have done and with Yvan on board. Despite that, do you think you could you launch a title bid?
I wouldn't be entering the series if I thought I was going to be last. RML build very good cars and we want to challenge Citroen, Honda and LADA. It's important for people to remember that we are an independent team and don't have the budget that the factory teams have, but at the same time, ROAL are a very professional outfit and they will do a fantastic job with the budget that we have in place.
A lot will depend on how the season starts, because even though Citroen have been doing a lot of testing, they don't have the experience of racing on a circuit. Their experience comes on gravel, snow and mud - and there isn't a lot of that in the WTCC!
That is where the knowledge Yvan has will be key for them, and we have to take advantage of any opportunities there are early in the yeah.
You used to grabe the headlines in the Chilton family before Max moved into F1. How did you find seeing him become the centre of attention?
It's funny as my mates now say 'Oh are you Max Chilton's brother' when I go to the pub! I've supported Max from his karting days and he has always been one of the best in what he had done. It doesn't bother me that he is in F1 and it's great that he is there. To finish all 19 races last year was fantastic but we are different drivers. I think I'd get bored in single-seaters but he loves it, and it doesn't bother me that he take the headlines.
How proud are you of what he did last year?
Very proud. The only race I could make it to was Spa and it was the only time he got into Q2. I was listening in and his feedback was awesome on the radio. In qualifying he made the right call and half way round he said he was going to call for inters them at the last minute he made the call for slicks. That was his call, and he wouldn't have got to Q2 without that.
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