Jason Plato and Darren Turner have qualified 1st and 2nd for the second consecutive HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship race meeting after they put their SEAT Leon TDIs on the front row of the grid for tomorrow’s first race at Oulton Park. They were the only two drivers to break the 1min 28sec barrier around the 2.26 mile track.
Jason did just one flying lap around the picturesque Cheshire circuit to set a time of 1:27.688 (91.38mph), which was just five hundredths of a second slower than the qualifying lap record, set by James Thompson (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) in 2004.
Darren also did a single flying lap, setting a time just 0.167 seconds slower than his SEAT Sport UK team-mate.
Both Holiday Inn-backed Leon TDIs then sat out most of the rest of qualifying in the pits, only venturing back onto the track near the end of the 30 minute session to scrub in new Dunlop tyres in preparation for race day.
Tom Chilton (Honda Civic) was the best-placed non-SEAT driver in 3rd, qualifying 0.444 seconds off pole and 0.277 seconds behind Darren.
With 26°C air and 34°C track temperatures today, the team hopes that it remains dry and is a little cooler for Sunday’s three 15 lap / 34 mile races, as high temperatures dramatically influences tyre grip levels – especially on the Leon TDI, which carries a significant amount of weight over its front wheels.
Jason Plato: “Each time we run the Leon TDI we get a little bit closer to finding a perfect set-up. We’re not there yet, but the car is now a lot easier to drive and that is where the time is coming from. We’ve dialled out the understeer we had earlier in the year and we’ve unlocked some performance in the handling department, so the car is starting to work well. We have plenty to do because we’re a long way behind in the points, but it’s one step at a time and the objective today was to put the car on pole. So far, so good – now we need to win some races tomorrow.”
Darren Turner: “With used tyres carried over from Snetterton, I’m happy with my qualifying time. Now we need to work together as a team and score some big points.”
Rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the BTCC take place tomorrow (Sunday 27th July) with three 15 lap races starting at 12.45, 15.00 and 17.40.
BTCC Round 19 Qualifying Times
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…1:27.688
2. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)… 1:27.855
3. Tom Chilton (Honda Civic)…1:28.132
4. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)…1:28.141
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)… 1:28.161
6. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)… 1:28.250