Seat Manufacturer Profile & Rally History

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Seat Home Country: Spain Spain

Seat is another company that is kind of hard to trace. The reason is that Seat changed ownerships and partnerships and is a company that always seemed to struggle somehow. Seat was never an independent manufacturer. They were founded by the Spanish state organisation for rebuilding economy after World War 2. Seat stands for Sociedat Espanola de Automobiles de Tourisme = Spanish society of passenger cars. The company was headed by Wilfredo P. Ricard, a former Alfa Romeo technical director. However as in the nature of an economy rebuilding organisation, commercial vehicles were the clear priority and therefore Ricard's main attention was with lorry manufacturer Pegaso, of which Seat was only a sub-group.

In following years Seat survived by producing Fiat cars in licence. Such was i.e. the little Fiat Panda as well known as a Seat Marbella. And at near any time before that, their models were so closely related that it was hard to identify if you saw a Fiat or a Seat model. Such was even the Fiat 124 and the Fiat 131 made as Seat cars of identical name – and both have been rallied. And to add to curiosity, in near unchanged form the Fiat 124 was available as a Seat, a Lada and a Polski! The Seat 124 was the most distinct version of this car between these manufacturers, as Seat gave their 124 the Fiat 125 twin headlight front and bigger engine. The first big successes for Seat in rallying came with the 124, coming a surprise 3rd & 4th in Monte Carlo 1977 with Spanish drivers Antonio Zanini and Salvador Canellas. Especially Salvador Canellas seems to be a Seat household name. So was only in the early 2000s a Seat Cordoba WRC driven by a Salvador Canellas, who is the son of the other Salvador Canellas. But staying in the right order, and underlining further how closely related Seat was with Fiat products: One of Seat’s biggest successes of old was when Antonio Zanini came 2nd in the ERC 1979, using a car called Seat 131 Abarth, which was exactly a Fiat of the same name with a different badge. To add to confusion in this ERC program Zanini several times even used a car that was Italian "TO" registered, so indeed this was simply a re-badged, Abarth prepared Fiat rally car with Fiat works team history! Salvador Servia did selected ERC rounds plus Rallye Monte Carlo in 1978 & 1979 with a works Seat 131 registered TO N92974, which obviously also was built and registered alongside the 1976 Fiat works cars TO N92969 - TO N92972! (note: for that reason we actually list the Seat 131 as Fiat in our database, see Fiat 131 driven by Zanini & Servia)

But Seat had financial troubles and seemed to get bored with the idea of producing perfect copies of Fiat cars. Eventually Seat fell under Volkswagen ownership and now produce copies of Volkswagen cars instead. Although with different designs, when you have a closer look, i.e. dash, you can see a close relation i.e. between the Ibiza and Polo models. Maybe another reason why Seat heritage is hard to trace is that motorsport was never a really big issue for Seat. This again turns Volkswagen’s idea of having Seat as their sporty brand a bit into a farce. Though Volkswagen itself is a company that always avoided marketing (embarrassment) through showing their cars' abilities in competition - or at least Volkswagen was very inconsistent with motorsport programs, repeatedly calling off programs prematurely and at inconvenient moments.

However it was after Seat fell into Volkswagen ownership that Seat could afford to go rallying again. First they created an F2 kit car based on the Ibiza. It may not have been as quick as i.e. the Peugeot 306 Maxi or Citroën Xsara Kit Car in F2, but other than these makes Seat not only competed full WRC seasons but especially with Harri Rovanperä they had a huge talent as a permanent driver. Like this Seat won the 2-Litre World Cup 3 years running (1996-1998) and especially in 1997 Harri Rovanperä won the F2 category on 5 successive WRC events, which considering the comparatively small overall competition of that year regularly translated into top10 overall results. This gave Seat massive confidence and towards the end of 1998 they launched a WRCar.

However this project was overshadowed by curiosity. For a start the car was a Cordoba. Seat wanted to use the Ibiza, but didn’t because they thought they needed 25,000 of them with more than 4m length. The rules however clearly apply the minimum 4m length to a 2,500 model version of a 25,000 model family, as later Peugeot and Skoda proved with their 206 and Fabia projects, so Seat missed out on their preferred base car simply because somebody did not read the rule book properly! Once the Cordoba WRC project was running, the car was hampered by bad reliability and bad performance and it spent most of the time fighting with Skoda’s WRC – which is a Volkswagen Group sister brand who launched their WRCar only 5 month after Seat did so! In this constellation it may not be the biggest surprise Volkswagen urged Seat to stop that program, just how this happened could again hardly have been in more curiosity. Seat was under pressure to make their car perform. To do so they invited Didier Auriol. Didier had a big wish list, most of which could only be addressed with a new evolution, read homologation. This came after a big effort and investment at the Rally Finland 2000, the car showed promise, but only days after that promising debut event Seat was ordered by Volkswagen to quit rallying!

Another curiosity is that Seat ran their WRC program in house. This works well for i.e. Peugeot & Citroën. But curiously for Seat "in house" did not mean doing everything by themselves. Clearly their program was hampered under Volkswagen interferences. And the Cordoba WRC's biggest problem seemed to be traced to a Subaru based Prodrive transmission system which Seat just bought and could not influence its design.

COLOURS & TYRES:

In the old Seat 124 days they used distinct all yellow cars. When the Ibiza F2 program was launched, the cars featured a strange mint green that shortly after was replaced by all yellow with Seat saying they wanted to go with tradition. Why the mint green was used on the Ibiza in the first place seems to be anybody’s guess in this context.

For tyres Seat used Pirelli throughout.

REGISTRATIONS:

Quite normal Spanish reg plates. And with Seat based in Barcelona, these reg plates would start with a B before the dash. Actually, Seat is an interesting case to show how interesting and reliable the reg plates are for car identification. Not always but as far as possible the last digit of the number on the reg plate is identical with the car's chassis number.

Chassis numbers: Actually quite normal chassis numbers. Surprising is maybe that of the Ibiza F2 Kit Car only 6 were built before the Evo2 version came with chassis numbers starting from 200 (rather than 201!) and built in larger numbers. On the Cordoba WRC they just counted through, no games with numbers starting with 200 or so despite there being Evo2 & Evo3 versions. But again the most interesting note must be that on the Cordoba WRC Seat tried to have reg numbers ending the same as the chassis numbers. This did not work in all cases, but in most. I.e. chassis 9 = B-7729-VG, 10 = B-7730-VG, 11 = B-2121-VN, 12 = B-3232-VX, 13 = B-3233-VX, 14 = B-5064-WJ... I am not naming them all here, that's what the database is for, but interesting there was a chassis number 13! As well what an effort! I like the idea that reg-plates are a reliable identification of a rally car, but going to the offices, discussing, shuffling your paperwork, when it is not even a special fancy reg-plate just to have the last digit matching? And it is matching too often to be a coincidence. Even I wouldn't be weird enough to go through that effort. Mind you, I am weird enough to have spotted it.

Seat Rally Cars

Model Class
Seat Seat 124  Group 2
Seat Seat Cordoba  World Rally Car
Seat Seat Ibiza  Formula 2

Rally Honour Roll

Year Class Place Manufacturer Events
2000 WRC World Rally Car 5th. Seat (11pts) 14

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1999 WRC World Rally Car 5th. Seat (23pts) 14

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1998 WRC World Rally Car 5th. Seat (1pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

1977 WRC Open 14th. Seat (14pts) 11

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar