SEAT plans second half attack after Croft setback
SEAT Sport UK is looking forward to attacking the second half of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship with all the new-found knowledge it has acquired with its Leon TDI in the first 15 races. The technical challenge of taming the diesel package has been great, yet the Leon TDI has already won three races (the first for a diesel- engined car in the 50 year history of the BTCC), scored nine podiums and achieved one pole position.
After disappointing results at Croft, in which Jason Plato and Darren Turner scored just three points each, the team is confident of strengthening its challenge for the Manufacturers' and Drivers' titles in the remaining 15 races. SEAT reaches the halfway point in the BTCC 2nd in the standings, 67 points behind Vauxhall, while Jason and Darren are 4th and 8th in the Drivers' Championship, 46 and 78 points behind leader Fabrizio Giovanardi.
Torrential rain caused the first of three BTCC races at Croft to be stopped early after two red flags, as standing water made driving conditions extremely difficult. Development brake pads which work well in the dry didn't work well in the wet, and Jason and Darren both went off because of it. Jason had to start from the pit lane after hitting a patch of standing water, locking the front brakes - which cut the engine and the power steering - and sliding into the gravel at Clervaux on the formation lap. Darren started from pole and was overtaken by Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic) into the first corner and was then hit by Mat Jackson (BMW 320si) and lost more places. Unable to see in the spray, Darren approached Tower Bend in fourth gear instead of sixth. He touched the brakes and skated straight off the track. Jason eventually finished 12th, while Darren was 15th .
The rain had stopped when the second race began - which was a shame, as both Leon TDIs had left the pits with a full wet weather set-up. On a drying track, both cars suffered from a lack of traction and despite Jason and Darren trying different techniques to lap the circuit at speed, they were both frustrated with the progress they were making. Having started 12th , Jason finished 8th , while Darren came from 15th on the grid to finish 9th .
The bad luck continued when the top seven cars were randomly selected to start the third race in reverse order, meaning that Jason and Darren would start from their Race 2 finishing positions. A bad day ended on a low when Jason attempted to overtake Colin Turkington on the inside of the Hairpin at the end of lap 2; he rode up the inside of the BMW 320si, balanced on two wheels and slammed back down to earth. He pitted twice for the engineers to check the Leon TDI, but the damage didn't cause any safety concerns and he returned to the track. He could only lap two seconds off the leaders pace, but Jason finished 12th to score valuable Manufacturer Championship points. Darren Turner was running in 7th when Jackson forced him into the gravel trap at Clervaux at the start of lap 7.
Jason Plato (12th /8th /12th ): "This just hasn't been our weekend. The team did a great job on Saturday and we qualified well, but it just didn't happen for us on race day. We know where we went wrong. We didn't consider the brake pads wouldn't work in the wet; they were too grippy at the front and didn't work at the rear, and that caused both Darren and I to go off. We had no traction at all in race two and I collected damage in race three. We have to
take this disappointment on the chin. We have six weeks to prepare for the next meeting at Snetterton and we have to exploit what we've learnt about the Leon TDI and make every opportunity in the second half of the season count."
Darren Turner (15th /9th /DNF): "Today hasn't delivered for us. I've scored one point for qualifying on pole and virtually nothing on race day, which isn't great when you're trying to fight for the Championship. The first race was very disappointing because of our brake issue, race two was damp and we had no traction and in race three I got taken out by Mat Jackson. It's just been one of those frustrating weekends. We have to put this behind us and return in six weeks time stronger and better."
Rounds 16, 17 and 18 of the BTCC takes place at Snetterton in Norfolk on July 12-13.
BTCC Round 13
1. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…4:07.301
2. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...4:08.308
3. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)...4:09.274
4. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...4:10.462
5. Robert Collard (BMW 320si)…4:11.483
6. Mike Jordan (Honda Integra)…4:12.379
12. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…4:17.624
15. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…4:20.945
Fastest lap: Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)...1:36.870
BTCC Round 14
1. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…26:24.098
2. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)…26:24.199
3. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...26:27.810
4. Robert Collard (BMW 320si)…26:11.483
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...26:31.881
6. Adam Jones (SEAT Leon)…26:32.644
8. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…26:36.200
9. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…26:36.507
Fastest lap: Steven Kane (BMW 320si)...1:36.870
BTCC Round 15
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...28:31.186
2. Adam Jones (SEAT Leon)…28:32.778
3. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...28:33.006
4. Tom Chilton (Honda Civic)…28:36.430
5. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)…28:36.528
6. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)...28:37.968
12. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…29:16.695
Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…DNF
Fastest lap: Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...1:26.547
HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (provisional points after Round 15)
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi ….145pts
2. Matt Neal…122pts
3. Mat Jackson….102pts
4. Jason Plato….99pts
5. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…98pts
6. Tom Onslow-Cole....97pts
7. Gordon Shedden...84pts
8. Darren Turner….78pts
1. VX Racing….307pts
2. SEAT Sport UK….170pts
3. Team Halfords….130pts
4. Team RAC….103pts