Seat Sport UK: SEAT deserved more than BTCC race victory at Mondello
SEAT deserved more than BTCC race victory at Mondello
Jason Plato scored his second Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship race victory of the year at Mondello Park today, but the SEAT Sport UK team deserved so much more after a fantastic performance at the twisty Irish circuit.
The history books will show that Plato won Round 14 of the 2004 series in his Toledo Cupra, but what has already been erased from the records is Rob Huff’s superb 2nd place which had temporarily given SEAT Sport UK its first ever one-two finish. Race officials deemed that Rob’s incident with rival Michael Bentwood was worthy of exclusion – a harsh penalty which denied the team an historic result.
Plato also led the third and final BTCC race today before the safety car was unexpectedly deployed. A five second advantage was reduced to nothing, and having been overtaken by Colin Turkington, Yvan Muller collided with Jason to put the SEAT driver out of the race.
The fact that SEAT Sport UK scored a race victory and still left Mondello Park feeling disappointed highlights the great progress the new team has made in just six BTCC race weekends and the high standards it sets itself.
Mondello Park - BTCC Rounds 13,14,15 - SEAT Sport UK race summary
Jason Plato: Qualified 5th. Finished 9th.
Rob Huff: Qualified 11th. Finished 8th.
With very little circuit data gathered due to a broken spark plug during free practice, Jason decided to make the most of race one to learn the track and secure a good grid position for Round 14. Running as high as fifth, he dropped back to finish the race in 9th position to guarantee 2nd place on the grid for the next race. It was a similar story for Rob, who not having raced at Mondello Park before used Round 13 to familiarise himself with the Irish circuit. Rob lifted off towards the end of the race take the chequered flag in 8th position and secure a 3rd place start in Round 14.
Jason said: “We were hurting a bit in that race because we’ve done no miles around here. I had a spark plug break yesterday and ended up only doing eight laps of free practice so we’ve got no data to find out how the car performs over a series of laps. I didn’t see any point hanging around sixth position, so I counted back and knew where I was and decided to let a few passed to give myself the upper hand. I just made a break for the back of the grid thinking to myself that if I’m in ninth I’ve got a commanding position for the start of race two rather than lying in sixth place with three laps to go and it all getting daft. We learnt quite a bit from that race so we’ll have a look at the data and see what we can do in the next race.”
Rob said: “That was not a bad race for me really, I had a blinding start and I think I jumped about three places off the line. Then I just sat behind Tom Chilton in ninth. I just tried to pace myself and not push too hard. There’s certainly more pace in the car and I was definitely quicker than the three guys ahead of me - I was catching them and then gradually started to drop back to keep position for the start of race two. Then Jason did the same and lifted right off and waited for me to go through and then tucked in behind me. I’m pleased with a second row start for the next race and if I have another start like that one I’ll be in the lead by the first corner.”
Jason Plato: Qualified 2nd. Finished 1st .
Rob Huff: Qualified 3rd . Finished 2nd.
Jason and Rob drove a fantastic race from 2nd and 3rd on the grid respectively to give SEAT Sport UK what it thought was its first ever one-two race result. However, shortly afterwards the race officials disqualified Rob for what they believed was an aggressive passing manoeuvre made on Michael Bentwood. Rob was consequently stripped of his 2nd place and made to start from the back of the grid for the final race of the day with his 30kg of success ballast from race two remaining on the car.
Jason said: “The race went like a dream - I got a great start and that was it! After about five laps I thought ‘Christ we’ve got some pace’ and I could see Rob starting to pull away from the others and I knew at that point we were on the cards for an historic one-two! I couldn’t back off until the very end, Rob did a great job and kept the pressure on and that’s what being team mates is all about, he played a great game there and well done to him.”
Rob said: “I had a mega race and I’m gutted to have the result taken away. I got another fantastic start and got alongside Jason going into the first corner. We gave each other room and then Michael Bentwood barged through and tried to cut me off on the exit but I stayed where I was. The rest of the race I followed Jason and pulled away from Tom Chilton in third by about half a second a lap. By that time Jason had built up a bit of lead and I started catching him up towards the end of the race. It was a fantastic result for the team and I think the decision to disqualify me was very harsh, but that’s life I suppose.”
Jason Plato: Qualified 1st . DNF.
Rob Huff: Qualified 20th . DNF.
Jason had a flying start from pole position and found the pace to quickly pull away from the rest of the field, helped by a three-way battle for second position between James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Anthony Reid. Jason had a five second lead and looked on course for his second victory of the day when, on lap nine of the 14 lap race, the safety car was unexpectedly deployed. Having seen his comfortable lead vanish, Jason got away well on the re-start only to be caught and overtaken by Colin Turkington, Yvan Muller also tried to aggressively find his way through, forcing Jason off the road. With a damaged car, Jason came into the pits to retire with just four laps remaining.
Team-mate Rob had a blistering start from 20th and last on the grid to move up to 14th by the end of the first lap. Some impressive passing manoeuvres then saw the SEAT Cupra Champion climb to 8th , but almost immediately after the safety car period Rob noticed a strange noise coming from the front of the car and pulled over to the side of the circuit.
Jason said: “The real story of the weekend centres on the dramas we had here during free practice and that the first race was our test. We didn’t have the right set up to start with so we changed it for the second race and won. Then we made some more changes to the car for the final race and that’s why we had the pace to win.
“The boys at SEAT Sport UK have really worked hard this weekend and done a fantastic job to improve the car so much so that in race three we were where Yvan Muller was in race one in terms of weight, and he had his car sorted with four years worth of data behind the team. Race three was my race – however, the safety car came out with four laps to go and took away the advantage I’d built up. Some you win some you lose, but to have a sure win like that taken away from you is such a shame because everyone’s worked really hard. However, we’ve had a great weekend and the main thing is we’re competitive. I’m not going to go home tonight disappointed even though at the end of the day I know I had two wins in the bag because I’m really happy with our performance here and I know there’s a lot more to come.”
Rob said: “Starting from the back of the grid I had really good race and got up to eighth by the time the safety car came out on lap nine. On the re-start I passed Tom Chilton but then got on the power coming out of a corner and the car didn’t want to go anywhere, so I pulled it off the track and said goodnight to it. It’s a shame but these things happen.”