Tom Coronel is one of the best-known Dutch racing drivers. As a funny person, he is also one of the most popular touring car drivers worldwide. He's a regular competitor in the FIA World Touring Car Championship since its inauguration in 2005 but he also competes in sports car races.
In 2009, he made a debut at Dakar Rally and then returned four more times from 2015 to 2018. He scored the best Dakar Rally result in 2018, finishing in the 35th place as a co-driver to his twin-brother Tim Coronel.
Winning the Dutch Touring Car Championship on his debut
Tom Coronel was born on April 5, 1972, in a small town of Naarden, in the province of North Holland. His twin brother Tim is also a successful racing driver, just as their older brother Raymond.
Tom’s racing career started in 1990 when he was named the most talented in the local racing school. Coronel soon debuted in the Dutch Citroen AX Cup. The first year was intended for learning but in the second attempt in 1991, he became a champion. The following year, Coronel moved to Dutch Touring Car Championship, driving a BMW 320i and won the title on his debut.
Switch to single-seaters
During 1992, Coronel also debuted in Dutch Formula Ford. His wish was to make a career in single-seaters and next year he won the title. Tom also appeared at Benelux championship, finishing as a runner-up, German Formula For and, finally, in Formula Ford Festival in which he took 4th position. In 1993, Coronel also appeared at the Italian Touring Cars Championship.
Tom was ready for the next challenge in 1994. As a driver of the Dutch team Van Amersfoort Racing, Tom competed in Euro Series Formula Opel Lotus and did really well, finishing the season as a vice-champion. That year he was elected Dutch driver of the year and earned funds to move further through the ranks.
In 1995, Coronel debuted in German Formula 3. Racing with TWS Team, he did pretty well and finished 7th in the rankings. However, that wasn’t enough to secure a drive in the series for another year, so Dutch driver again had to make a switch in other competition.
Coronel won two titles in two years in Japan
Coronel made a bit surprising decision to move to Japan in 1996, to compete in Formula 3 championship. The first season in a new environment was very good for Dutch driver. He won one race and finished 2nd in five races to clinch 3rd place in the championship. The second year was even better. Tom won the title after being the fastest in six out of seven races. His lead in the points was so huge that he could afford to miss two races in the late stage season.
He stayed in Japan in 1998 but switched to Formula Nippon and in GT Series, he drove for Nakajima team. While in Formula Nippon his first year was one to forget, in GT racing he did much better and was a title contender until the last race of the season. In 1999, Tom continued to race in both championships and won Formula Nippon title. He topped the standings before the last race of the year at Suzuka where he clinched the trophy after the crash with his only rival Satoshi Motoyama. In Super GT, Coronel wasn’t as successful, so he finished too far from the top of the Drivers’ championship.
Not so impressive performances in 24 Hours of Le Mans
In 1999, Coronel also debuted in 24 Hours of Le Mans as a member of Racing for Holland team but failed to finish the race. That was Tom’s first of 10 appearings in the most prestigious race in the world in which he was never close to winning. His best result was 8th place in 2002 edition, again driving for Racing for Holland team.
Unsuccessful try to secure a drive in Formula 1
After a successful period in Japan, Coronel caught the eye of many teams but he was resolute to find a Formula 1 engagement. He had some tests with Arrows team but failed to impress. At the same time, he was unable to secure funding for the race so he missed most of 2000 season. Tom has competed in a couple of FIA GT Championship races, but without notable success.
The things were better in 2001. Coronel again entered a couple of FIA GT races and scored one victory, but what was more important is the fact that he signed with BMW to race at the Dutch Touring Cars Championship in which he drove pretty well, regularly being near the top of the standings.
Three years in ETCC
In 2003, Tom raced with Carly Motors’ BMW 320i in European Touring Car Championship. He spent three years with the team and, interestingly, Coronel's best results were scored during the first year in which he finished 7th. In 2003 ETCC season Coronel was 10th while in 2004, Dutch driver dropped to 12th place. The same year, he managed to win the title for the Independent entries.
WTCC became Tom's priority
Since 2005, Coronel’s main occupation is racing at the World Touring Cars Championship. He left BMW and started his WTCC career with SEAT, driving for GR Asia team. The first year was relatively good. His best result was 3rd place in the race in Belgium, so Tom finished the season 14th overall and 5th in the Michelin Independents’ Trophy.
He spent another two years with the same team, establishing himself as one of the best Independents’ Trophy drivers. In 2006, Tom Coronel won the title for the independent entries while in the overall classification he was 17th. In 2007, Coronel couldn’t defend his title as he drove for the factory team. In the much stronger competition, Coronel took 13th place.
Winning the WTCC Independents' Trophy with SEAT
Tom stayed in the seat of SEAT in 2008 but moved to Sunred team and claimed his first win in the WTCC, during a penultimate round in Japan. However, during most of the season his results weren’t so good and Coronel at the end was 14th in the standings. Next year with the same team, Coronel again finished 14th but won the Independents’ Trophy, mainly thanks to the good form in the finish of the season. In 2010, driving an SR Sport’s SEAT Leon TDI, Coronel took 8th place in the WTCC overall standings, missing to score points in only four of 22 races that year.
Dutch driver returned into the seat of BMW in 2011, driving for ROAL Motorsport, one of the best WTCC Independent teams. Tom again won the race in Japan, had other three podiums and finished 4th overall what still stands as the best result in his WTCC career. In 2012, Coronel again did well, even after he failed to win the race. Nevertheless, he missed picking points in only one of 22 races, scoring five podiums and finishing 5th in the championship.
Switch to Chevrolet Cruze in 2014
BMW retired from the WTCC Manufacturers' Championship in 2013, but both ROAL Motorsport and Coronel continued their journey. That was relatively good year for the Dutchman considering he won two races, in Slovakia and again in Japan, but in the final standings, Coronel dropped to the 10th position. He improved in the following year, driving a Chevrolet and taking 7th position in the Drivers’ Championship. Tom played an important role in helping his ROAL Motorsport to win the Yokohama Teams’ Trophy title.
Three more seasons with ROAL Motorsport's Chevrolet
The season of 2015 was marked with many accidents and incidents in which Coronel was involved. He retired from seven races that year so it wasn’t a surprise when he dropped to the 13th place overall and 6th in the standings for the independent drivers.
However, the start of 2016 wasn't promising. Coronel was in trouble to secure funding before the start of the campaign, but when the season has started he did pretty well, winning two races, in Morocco and Portugal, until the mid-season. At the end, he was 11th overall and 3rd in the WTCC Trophy standings.
In 2017 WTCC, Tom was driving ROAL Motorsport's Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 for fourth year in a row.Without wins and scoring just one podium, he finished 11th in the points.
Coronel brothers are conquering South American deserts and mountains
Another interesting fact about Tom’s career is that he is the regular participant at Dakar Rally in recent years, driving alone or serving as a co-driver to his twin brother Tim. Tom made a debut at Dakar Rally in 2009, what was the first edition of that race in South America, as a co-driver to his brother.
Tom returned to Dakar Rally in 2015, driving his own buggy, and then again in 2016 and 2017. In 2018, Coronel brothers were together again in the same car, sharing the #347 Jefferies buggy. They finished in the 35th place.