A rough weekend for the SEAT team but Turner managed to score valuable points. Both Turner and Plato have some catching up to do if they want to remain in contention for the championship.
On a day marked by torrential rain, Darren Turner celebrated his 34th birthday by finishing 2nd and 3rd in the first two HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Rockingham today, and despite ending the third rain-soaked race in a gravel trap, it was a truly great performance by the Leon TDI driver. Team-mate Jason Plato was also on top form, but outstanding performances in all three races didn’t bring the rewards they deserved. Having finished 9th in Race 1, Jason was hit by Tom Chilton in Race 2 and had to pit. He rejoined in last place and fought his way back to finish 9th. A 30 second stop and go penalty relegated Jason to last place in Race 3, but another amazing drive saw him overtake Colin Turkington on the finish line to take 6th.
As the SEAT Sport UK team continue to learn about its new Leon TDI, the changeable weather and track conditions added to the technical challenge of finding the right balance. The extra weight of the diesel engine, additional success ballast and a slippery 1.94 mile International Super Sports Car Circuit saw the team try different, and often unorthodox, geometry settings in an effort to reduce the Leon TDI of understeer.
In Race 1, Darren made a great start and ran in 2nd place behind Gordon Shedden from lights to flag. Jason’s 250th BTCC race didn’t go according to plan, as he struggled to find any grip at all. Having started 5th, he saved two huge sideway slides to finish 9th.
Darren made another good start in Race 2 to take the lead, but his Leon TDI was struggling in the tight and twisty infield section and on lap 10 Fabrizio Giovanardi got the nose of his Vauxhall Vectra inside at Turn 7. Darren tried to hang on, but Giovanardi forced him wide and Mat Jackson also sneaked through, dropping Darren to 3rd. Jason was hit from behind on the opening lap by Tom Chilton and when the Safety Car came out on lap 2 for the marshals to recover the stranded Lexus of Stuart Oliver, Jason came into the pits to make sure nothing at the rear of the Leon TDI was broken. He rejoined in last position and with the car crabbing badly and wanting to turn sharp left at every opportunity, Jason launched an astonishing comeback and raced from 24th to finish 9th.
The start of the third and final race was delayed by a huge thunderstorm, and all teams were allowed to change from slicks to wet weather tyres on the reformed grid. This was unlucky for Jason, who had already come into the pits to change to wet tyres rather than take his place on the grid. Jason had to get from the pit lane to the grid again, and as the team made final safety checks to Jason’s car, making sure the windscreen wasn’t going to mist up and the doors were sealed, the mechanics were judged to have been working on the car after the three minute board was deployed; the punishment for which is a 30 second stop and go penalty. This dropped Jason to last place once again and, in heavy rain, dense spray and low visibility, he again carved his way through the field to overtake Colin Turkington on the finish line and claim 6th place by just 0.012 seconds.
Jason Plato (9th/9th/6th): “Sometimes you have days where everything you do just doesn’t go quite according to plan, and this was one of those days. It’s been a bit of a lottery, and we haven’t had much luck – although in race two and three we’ve had some great drives back up through the field from last place. The weekend for me was ruined by Tom Chilton in race two. You can’t change your line in a braking area, and coming down from 130mph into a hairpin corner he just turned left into me. It wrecked his race as well as mine. We had to pit to check the car over and from last position we finished ninth – and then we were a little unlucky as the top eight was selected to start race three in reverse order. We made a great call to change tyres before the start of race three, but then that didn’t work to our advantage either when everyone was allowed to do the same, and when we were doing safety checks on the car we got a 30 second penalty. It’s just been a day full of annoying things which haven’t worked and haven’t gone our way, but which so nearly did. We’ve found some performance in the car and we continue to learn about it, but in many ways it’s just been a frustrating day to forget.”
Darren Turner (2nd/3rd/DNF): “Race one and two were really good. I made two good starts, raced well and I was pleased to finish on the podium. I was lucky to get to the end of the second race, as I had a good battle with Giovanardi, but when he overtook me he hit my front wheel and took a huge chunk out of the rim, so I was lucky I didn’t get a puncture. The third race was very wet and I just got caught out under braking twice, and the second time it was game over. I’ve had a good race weekend, but it was a shame to end it on a bit of a downer. I’ve been caught out in the rain once at Donington last year and twice here today and I need to work out why I’m getting caught out in these conditions. It’s been a bit of a frustrating birthday for me today, and next time out at Donington we’ll just have to come out fitter and stronger.”
Scott Dennis, SEAT UK Motorsport Manager: “We’re getting closer to unlocking the full potential of the Leon TDI, but frustratingly today circumstances didn’t enable us to turn that potential into results. Darren drove superbly in race one and two to score two excellent podium finishes, and in very difficult circumstances Jason came from the last to finish sixth in the third and final race. As was demonstrated last year, every point is important to our Championship aspirations, and hard earned points scored on a difficult day like this could prove crucial at the end of the season.”
Rounds 7, 8 and 9 of the BTCC take place at Donington Park in Leicestershire on May 3/4.
BTCC Round 4
1. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)…23:28.251
2. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…23:31.275
3. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)…23:31.826
4. Adam Jones (SEAT Leon)…23:33.255
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)…23:37.329
6. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)…23:38.030
9. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…23:40.506
Fastest lap: Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)…1:24.698
BTCC Round 5
1. Mat Jackson (BMW 320si)…28:51.807
2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)…28:53.349
3. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…29:00.670
4. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)…29:01.269
5. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)…29:02.397
6. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)…29:02.603
9. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…29:04.990
Fastest lap: Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)…1:25.517
BTCC Round 6
1. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)…31:06.261
2. Tom Chilton (Honda Civic)…31:11.175
3. Adam Jones (SEAT Leon)…31:12.046
4. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)…31:13.955
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)…31:14.408
6. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…31:15.967
Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…DNF
Fastest lap: Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)…1:25.517
HiQ British Touring Car Championship (provisional points after Round 6)
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi ….63pts
2. Mat Jackson.…56pts
3. Gordon Shedden…50pts
4. Matt Neal…47pts
5. Darren Turner….38pts
6. Jason Plato….35pts
1. VX Racing….111pts
2. Team Halfords….75pts
3. SEAT Sport UK….72pts
4. BMW Dealer Team UK….52pts
- SEAT Sport UK