Saturday, 03 May 2008 20:29
BTCC report : -
SEAT flying high at Donington Park.
Jason Plato promised that fatherhood wouldn’t slow him down and true to his word, five days after his wife Sophie gave birth to their daughter Alena, the SEAT Sport UK driver qualified his Leon TDI on the front row of the grid for Round 7 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship. Team-mate Darren Turner will line up immediately behind Jason tomorrow on the second row, having qualified 4th in an eventful 30 minute session where his first flying lap turned out to be his best.
SEAT Sport UK tested a new set-up for its diesel-engined touring car during the morning’s two Free Practice sessions, and with Jason and Darren finishing 4th and 5th in Free Practice 1 and 2nd and 3rd in Free Practice 2 the team carried that new-found knowledge into qualifying. The Holiday Inn backed Leon TDI was particularly quick in the first two sectors around the 1.96-mile National Circuit, and in sector three it could reach 138mph on the long straight under the famous Dunlop Bridge.
The track temperature had risen by 3°C to 26°C by the time qualifying begun in the late afternoon’s dry and warm conditions, meaning that the levels of grip had changed too. Both Jason and Darren found that their Leon TDIs weren’t quite as well balanced at certain points on the circuit as they had been earlier, yet despite this they each put in a very strong performance.
Jason improved his time on each set of new tyres he went out on. He initially set a 1:12.612 before clocking a 1:12.501 on his second set before finally setting a 1:12.219 on his third and final run. The latter was just 0.079 seconds slower than pole-sitter Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra) and 0.127 seconds slower than the qualifying lap record set by Colin Turkington in 2005.
Darren’s qualifying session was exactly the opposite. Having set an initial “banker” of 1:12.599, which at the time was 0.013 seconds quicker than Jason, he soon felt something wasn’t quite right with the car. He was proved correct in the closing stages of qualifying, when a suspected high pressure fuel leak forced him to pull off the track as a precaution. His first flying lap time was still good enough for 4th fastest, just +0.459 off pole, and he’ll line up alongside Turkington on row two.
Jason Plato said: “I’m really pleased to have qualified on the front row. The balance of the car is still not perfect, but we’re certainly heading in the right direction. We’re making good progress and it’s important for us to keep pushing to find that perfect set-up. We’ve tried a few new things today to reduce the car’s understeer and we’ve put the Leon TDI on the front row. When we get the balance right, I’m sure we’ll be able to get our first pole with it.”
Darren Turner: “I was happy with my first flying lap, but that was just supposed to be a banker to make sure I was somewhere in the top half of the grid. We made some changes to the rear suspension and damper settings for my second run, but we went backwards with the car’s performance. I felt then that something else wasn’t quite right and on my final run fluid began to spray onto my windscreen. My Race Engineer Nick Clipson said ‘if no warning lights and alarms come on, keep going’, so I did. But more and more fluid was spraying onto the windscreen, so I pulled off the track just after the Old Hairpin. In qualifying you usually get quicker and quicker during the session, but that didn’t happen to me today. I’m not too disappointed, because we can certainly get a good result from fourth on the grid.”
Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the BTCC take place tomorrow (Sunday 4th May), with three 16-lap races starting at 11.10, 14.20 and 16.45. ITV4 will have extensive live coverage, with non-stop coverage between 12.30pm-5.30pm.
BTCC Round 7 Qualifying Times
1. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...1:12.140
2. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…1:12.219
3. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…1:12.323
4. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…1:12.599
5. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)…1:12.601
6. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...1:12.736
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