First BTCC pole for SEAT Leon TDI
Darren Turner has given SEAT Sport UK's Leon TDI its first pole after a dramatic qualifying session at Croft in North Yorkshire. Darren had to sit out half of the 30 minute session after damaging the front of his car, yet will still start Round 13 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship tomorrow after setting an unbeaten 1:25.825. Jason Plato set his best time on his final flying lap, setting a 1:26.027 with a Leon TDI carrying 36kgs of success ballast.
Darren's first flying lap ended with a high-speed excursion through the gravel trap at the first corner, Clervaux. He came into the pits for a fresh set of tyres and put in "a tidy lap" with a 1:25.825. However, the earlier incident had broken the carbon fibre front splitter and gravel had been forced into a 15mm long gap, pushing the bottom of the splitter lower to the ground. With not enough time remaining to replace the front bumper assembly, Darren had an anxious wait in the SEAT Sport UK pit garage while everyone else tried to beat his time. His time could not be beaten, however, as Darren claimed the first pole by a diesel-engined car in the 50 year history of the BTCC.
Qualifying was red flagged three times after separate incidents involving Erkut Kizilirmak (Vauxhall Astra), Stuart Oliver (SEAT Toledo), Chris Stockton (SEAT Toledo) and just 2min 45secs remained when the green flags came out for the final time. Jason had time for just one more flying lap to improve on 6th position, and despite not nailing a perfect lap he jumped to 3rd with a 1:26.027 - which was 0.344 seconds faster than his previous best.
Both Darren and Jason's qualifying times were faster than last year's pole time around the 2.1 mile Croft circuit, which was a 1:26.243 set by Gordon Shedden.
Darren Turner: "I ran wide on my very first run and went through the gravel at Clervaux. I came into the pits for a fresh set of tyres and went back out with the aim of just making sure I put in a tidy lap. I caught John George [Honda Integra] towards the end of the lap, which cost a bit of time, but at least I'd recorded a reasonable time. The plan was to go back out and go faster, but the front splitter was damaged with gravel wedged in it. There wasn't enough time to replace it so I had to sit out the rest of qualifying. I'm really surprised the time I did was good enough for pole, but I'm equally delighted to give the Leon TDI its first qualifying P1."
Jason Plato: "I had to abort my first flying lap because of traffic. After the three red flags it was all down to my final flying lap. It wasn't the perfect lap either because I made a couple of mistakes, but only Fabrizio Giovanardi is carrying more success ballast than me, and he's way down in twelfth and I'm up right up there in third, so I'm pleased to be only two-tenths off pole with the second heaviest car on the track."
Rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the BTCC take place tomorrow (Sunday 1st June), with the three 15-lap races starting at
12.01, 14.35 and 16.45. ITV4 will have extensive live coverage between 12.30pm-5.30pm.
BTCC Round 13 Qualifying Times
1. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)… 1:25.825
2. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)... 1:25.926
3. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…1:26.027
4. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…1:26.173
5. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)... 1:26.226
6. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...1:26.238