|BRITISH TOURING CHAMPIONSHIP|
|SEAT Leads BTCC After Three Wins |
|Fantastic Day At Brands For SEAT|
|SEAT Leads BTCC After Three Wins At Brands Hatch|
SEAT Sport UK celebrated the start of the 2006 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in magnificent style by winning all three races at Brands Hatch today. James Thompson leads the Drivers’ Championship after winning Rounds 1 and 2, while Jason Plato’s engineers worked wonders to repair his new Leon after it was damaged in Race 1 to enable him to win the third and final race of the day. SEAT currently leads both the British and the FIA
World Touring Car Championships.
James recovered from a poor start in Race 1 (which was the first time he’d tried a standing start in the SEAT Sport UK Leon) in which he dropped from 3rd on the grid to 6th, to charge back and win the race by 1.320 seconds. Jason also had a bad start, but fought back and lying 4th when he was hit from behind by Fabrizio Giovanardi on lap 10. The impact broke his car’s rear suspension, forcing him out of the race.
James started Race 2 from pole, with 45kgs of success ballast on board. He made a good start and was involved in a close battle for the lead with Colin Turkington and Matt Neal. The leading group of three drivers pulled away from the rest of the field as the 24 lap race developed, with James eventually beating Turkington to the chequered flag by 0.543 seconds. Jason started from 14th place on the grid in a car that had undergone some rapid repairs. Time had run out for the team to complete the set-up, but despite this Jason set the fastest lap of the race (49.289 / 89.56mph)
to finish 5th.
A new rule for 2006 sees the winner of the day’s second race draw to decide who will start Race 3 from pole. James randomly selected number seven, meaning the top seven drivers from Race 2 started Race 3 in reverse order, giving pole to Tom Chilton. Rob Collard joined him on the front row, with Jason starting from 3rd place and James from 7th.
Jason made a fantastic start to overtake Collard before Paddock Hill Bend and then he overtook Chilton to take the lead at the same corner six laps later. From then on Jason increased his lead by around a 10th of a second per lap. Towards the end of the race, Matt Neal overtook Collard at Clearways to move into 2nd place, but contact at Paddock Hill Bend saw Neal slam into the crash barriers. The accident brought out the red flags, the race was stopped two laps early and the results were declared with Jason winning by 2.831 seconds. James drove an intelligent race to finish 6th, keeping well out of trouble to make sure that a third finish of the day ensured more valuable points for SEAT in the BTCC Manufacturers’ title race.
Jason said: “I had an awful start in the first race, but I was still confident that we could make up time because I knew we had a good race set-up. I passed Gavin Smith at Paddock Hill Bend and was nicely up to fourth and on the pace when Giovanardi started to hit me from behind. On lap 10 he hit me at Paddock, again at Druids, Graham Hill Bend, Surtees, McLaren and then he really clouted me at Clearways. He hit me so hard that he broke my rear suspension and pushed me sideways and then I got tagged a few times more. It’s not necessary to drive like that at this stage in
the series and it’s because of Giovanardi’s Latin temperament that we missed out on a possible SEAT one-two.
“The second race was a little frustrating. We ran out of time between races making repairs to an accident that shouldn’t have happened and we just didn’t have time to set the car up properly. The team did a fantastic job, but on these cars a millimetre makes a big difference.
“This has been a phenomenal race weekend for the team. It could have been better for me personally had Giovanardi not hit me, but winning the third race was great. We have worked hard over the winter to find a good race pace with the new Leon and now we need to work a bit more on our qualifying set-up. The team has done a fantastic job this weekend and I’m confident that we have a good package to really challenge for the title.”
James said: “Like Jason, I had an awful start in Race 1, the tyre smoke left the line before I did! That gave me a lot more work to do in the race, because at the end of the first lap I was down in sixth. We knew the Leon would be very strong around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in race trim, and that if I could get passed Tom Chilton I’d be able to push really hard in the closing laps. When Chilton left the door open at Clearways, that’s exactly what happened.
“I had a much better start in Race 2 and the car was fantastic throughout the race, although the weight penalty really hurt because I had to drive flat out all the way to the chequered flag. It certainly wasn’t an easy win by any means. Having won the first two races I was happy to finish sixth in the final race of the day. There was no point pushing too hard, ending up in a gravel trap and scoring no Manufacturer points. That’s not what I’m here to do. We finished sixth and now the success ballast will be off the car for the next race at Mondello. It’s been a perfect start to the
season for SEAT and I’m really happy.”
1. James Thompson….37pts
2. Colin Turkington….30pts
3. Tom Chilton….28pts
4. Jason Plato….23pts
5. Rob Collard….21pts
1. SEAT Sport UK….56pts
2. Team RAC….51pts
3. VX Racing….41pts
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