Apr 30, 2020
As he continues his preparations for his 31st season of racing when he hopes to make it 500 starts in a touring car, FIA World Touring Car stalwart Tom Coronel catches up with host Martin Haven on the WTCR Fast Talk podcast presented by Goodyear.
Never one to shy away from the limelight, this ultra-charismatic Dutchman, championship-winning racer, entrepreneur, TV pundit and YouTube star hasn’t missed an FIA World Touring Car season since the WTCC was revived in 2005. And he’ll be one of the most popular members of the WTCR family when he takes to the grid in an Audi RS 3 LMS run by Comtoyou Racing this year.
Prior to his international touring car switch, Coronel excelled in single-seaters with success in his native Netherlands and, most notably, Japan. But it was a financial struggle from the start, as he reveals in part one of WTCR Fast Talk presented by Goodyear.
“My older brothers were racing and I was a mechanic for them,” said Coronel, whose grandfather, Bertus van Hamersveld, was a famous motorbike racer. “They gave me a present of a racing school course, I won the course and there was a scholarship, one season in the Citroën AX Cup paid by Citroën Netherlands. That’s how I started racing because there was no financial backing in the family, the money was not there.”
Progressing to the Formula Opel Euroseries with the famous Van Amersfoort Racing team via Formula Ford, Coronel, now 48, recalls how winning the Nations’ Cup at Zandvoort made a big difference to his career prospects. “I was in the slipstream of Jos Verstappen and finally at home ground [for the Nations’ Cup] I could show there was another name and a potential driver. The crowd went mental [when we won], it was completely full, there were a lot of banners on the home straight.”
A move to German Formula 3 followed for 1994 when Coronel first came into contact with the Schumacher family and Willi Weber, manager to Michael and Ralf at the time and boss of the WTS F3 team. “At the beginning I didn’t know who these people were. But there was a guy who called me, Willi Weber, he wanted me to drive for his team. I was doing everything myself, the sponsorship, the talks with teams. He sent me the contract, I signed for him and, in the meantime, I tried to find the budget. My team-mate was Ralf Schumacher and my team boss was Franz Tost, now the boss at AlphaTauri in Formula One.”
Coronel finished seventh in the German championship and moved to Japan for 1996, winning the national F3 title the following year when he also won the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3 at Zandvoort on a brief return to Europe. But Japan remained his focus and he took the Formula Nippon title in 1999 driving for ex-Formula One racer Satoru Nakajima’s team.
But when a test for the Arrows Formula One squad didn’t result in the hoped-for-drive for 2000, a disconsolate Coronel briefly fell out of love with motorsport until he began his touring car adventure that he continues to savour to this day.
TOM CORONEL’S WTCR FAST TALK PODCAST PRESENTED BY GOODYEAR PART 1 CONTENT (available from 29 April)
01m25: Explanation of the lockdown restrictions in The Netherlands
02m20: How a family member was affected by COVID-19
03m07: The younger twin by 12 minutes
03m40: Motorsport a family tradition
04m19: Getting started by going to school thanks to a present from his brothers
05m17: Potential rewarded with more racing school backing
06m00: Racing against older brother Raymond in Dutch Touring Cars
06m50: Formula One still on the radar courtesy of single-seater chance
07m50: Success in Benelux Formula Ford
08m21: Brands Hatch and the Formula Ford Festival
10m27: Gaining his wings in Opel Lotus with Van Amersfoort Racing
12m50: Teaming up to win the Nations’ Cup at home
14m15: Partnering with Schumacher in German Formula 3
16m16: Following team orders to help Schumacher to the title
17m22: Making the big step to Japan once he’d eventually said ‘yes’
21m24: Winning the Japanese F3 title despite missing two rounds
22m27: Returning home to win the Marlboro Masters of Formula 3
24m40: Getting the call from Satoru Nakajima for Formula Nippon bid
27m19: From crashing to celebrating in Japan
SELECTED QUOTES FROM PART ONE
Sibling rivalry from an early age
“My twin brother Tim is 12 minutes older because I spent 12 minutes longer in a warmer and soft position. But that was the only time Tim was faster than me, let’s be clear about that one!”
Famous family member provides inspiration
“My grandfather was a very famous motorbike racer. The first roundabout you hit when you turn off the highway on route to Assen circuit is named after my grandfather, Bertus van Hamersveld.”
From school to scholarship
“My older brothers were racing and I was a mechanic for them. They gave me a present of a racing school course, I won the course and there was a scholarship, one season in the Citroën AX Cup, paid by Citroën Netherlands. That’s how I started racing because there was no financial backing in the family, the money was not there.”
The next Verstappen
“I was the one in the slipstream of Jos Verstappen and finally at home ground [for the Nations’ Cup] I could show there was another name and a potential driver. The crowd went mental, it was completely full, there were a lot of banners on the home straight.”
“At the beginning I didn’t know who these people were, I was not noticing what was happening in other categories. But there was a guy who called me, Willi Weber, he wanted me to drive for his team. I was doing everything myself, the sponsorship, the talks with teams. He sent me the contract, I signed for him and, in the meantime, I tried to find the budget. My team-mate was Ralf Schumacher and my team boss was Franz Tost, now the boss at AlphaTauri in Formula One.”
“They were great days in German Formula 3, really professional with 20 days of testing before the season started. But it was difficult to be the team-mate of Ralf because all the attention was for him. But I became faster and faster through the season racing against all the good guys.”
Providing a helping hand
“The last race at the Nürburgring I had the pole position but I had to let Ralf pass by to give him the points to win the championship. I did that two metres before the finish line, I braked and was almost out of the car. That made Ralf a little bit angry, but the people from Opel promised me engines for next season, that was the trade.”
Saying ‘yes’ after saying ‘no’
“This is TOM’S Toyota, we would like you to race for us, we give you a salary. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I have no interest to race in Japan’. Then they called [Dutch motorsport legend] Jan Lammers and said, ‘there is something strange going on’. Jan called me and said, ‘this is factory team of Toyota and you have to race for them’. I said tell them they can call me again’.”
The Master of Zandvoort
“The Marlboro Masters [in 1997] was like the world championship. I wanted to show I was not only easily winning in Japan but I wanted to show internationally I was also competitive. That was a very important race on home ground with 120,000 people at the track. It was an amazing feeling. I passed Sébastien Philippe eight laps before the end. People were shouting my name, ‘Tommy, Tommy’.”
Fax of a lifetime
“It was three weeks before the season started, Satoru Nakajima sent a fax and finally we signed. He said you can race in Formula Nippon but you also have to drive for me in Super GT in the Honda NSX. I said ‘okay, I’m good with that.’
A taste of Formula One
“We nearly made the speed Formula One did at Suzuka. It was when Formula One had the grooved tyre. We were on pole position with a 1m41 and the Formula One was 1m39, only two seconds faster. We had 30 per cent more downforce and you had to train a lot.”
Formula Nippon crash but glory
“The race before in Sugo, Satoshi Motoyama won the race, I was second. The last race of the season was at Suzuka on the Short Course. I qualified P3, Motoyama P2. Motoyama made a better start, I had some wheelspin. He was in front of me, I kept full throttle, we both crashed at the first corner with high speed. We were both okay but it meant I won the championship.”
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