The next FIA World Touring Car Championship meeting will be a milestone for both SEAT and the FIA World Series – for the first time, a manufacturer team will enter a diesel car at a FIA-organised official World Championship race.

At the event in Sweden on the 28th to 29th July, both Jordi Gené and Yvan Muller will drive a Leon WTCC car equipped with a 280 PS diesel engine, which is derived from the 170 PS 2.0-litre TDI featured in the top-selling Leon FR.

SEAT will be rolling two TDI cars onto the Scandinavian Raceway at Anderstorp, as the culmination of a technological breakthrough SEAT Sport engineers have been working on for the past few months. The aim is to increase the team’s competitiveness at the World Championship and pave the way to winning the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ titles.

Jaime Puig, Director of SEAT Sport, said: ‘The regulations allow us to register a car equipped with a diesel engine, and we were happy to rise to the challenge. We are satisfied with the testing results and believe the Leon TDI WTCC can become a competitive car in the mid to long term. For the moment it will only be driven by Jordi Gené, who has been responsible for its development, and Yvan Muller. Gabriele Tarquini, Tiago Monteiro and Michel Jourdain will continue to drive the usual model.’

Benoit Bagur, SEAT Sport Chief Engineer, added: ‘Since the FIA made it possible to enter a diesel engine in the competition, we started looking into the viability of the project, and it took off a few months ago. The basis for the engine is the 170 PS 2.0-litre mounted in the Leon FR. We kept the engine block and the cylinder head of the production model, but changed the turbo compressor and gearbox. Furthermore, we had to alter the front part to house the intercooler and create new air intakes. The diesel engine is 35 kg heavier than the petrol, so we had to redistribute some weight. After satisfactory test results, we are eager to see its potential in actual racing conditions.’

Jordi Gené: ‘We have been working on this project for several months, and appreciate its great potential. I am looking forward to it because one of the aspects I most like about my job is the possibility of working on new car development, and even more so when they feature new technology. We are facing a double handicap with the diesel car. The first is that according to regulations, a diesel car has to weigh 30 kg more than one with a petrol engine. The second is that the intercooler and the turbo are situated ahead of the front axle, which makes weight distribution detrimental compared with a petrol car. But, as the Leon has the best chassis in the Championship and our engine torque will be much higher, I think that, in the mid-term and on certain tracks, we can be competitive.’

Yvan Muller was enthusiastic about the new car. He said: ‘I have done some testing with the diesel engine, and the lap times are very similar to the petrol. It is a little slower in the corners because of the extra weight and there is more stress on the tyres, but it is a little bit quicker on the straights. The chassis of the SEAT Leon is one of the best, but the straight-line speed is too slow and now SEAT Sport has found a good solution to this problem. I’m looking forward to racing the Leon for the first time in Sweden.’

SEAT Leon TDI WTCC technical data

SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDI 170 PS

Turbocharged, four-cylinder in line, transversely-mounted, 16 valves,
twin overhead camshafts
Displacement: 2,000 cc
Bore x stroke: 81 x 95.5 mm
Maximum power: 280 PS at 4000 rpm
Maximum torque: 450 Nm at 2500 rpm
Lubrication: wet sump

Front-wheel drive
Gearbox: Hewland six-speed, sequential shift
Clutch: twin-plate
Differential: mechanical limited slip differential

Front suspension: MacPherson strut, coil springs, gas-filled dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: multi-link axle, coil springs, gas-filled dampers, anti-roll bar
Steering: power-assisted rack and pinion

Non-assisted dual circuit system
Front brakes: four-piston callipers, 332 mm steel ventilated discs
Rear brakes: two-piston callipers, 280 mm steel discs

Length: 4330 mm
Width: 1849 mm
Wheelbase: 2600 mm
Minimum weight: 1170kg (including driver)