The heavily laden SEAT Toledo Cupras of Jason Plato and Rob Huff, which are carrying an extra 25kgs plus success ballast, qualified in 9th and 13th places respectively for Round 25 of the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton – leaving the SEAT Sport UK drivers in a difficult position for tomorrow’s first race.
Qualifying was interrupted today when oil was spread over the circuit, which saw the 30 minute session stopped for 21 minutes for cement dust to be put down. Nobody wanted to be the first back out on the track, and when Rob did an exploratory lap he reported that the final section, and in particular Russell Bend, was treacherously slippery.
With six minutes of the session left, both Jason and Rob left the pits. While Rob stayed out to set the 13th best time, Jason came into the pit to swap his tyres front to rear. With just three minutes to go, he left the pits for one last flying lap – recording the 9th fastest time. Despite leaving it to the last possible minute to get the best track conditions, and despite a magnificent effort by both drivers, the weight added to the Toledo Cupra proved too much over the 1.9520 mile Norfolk circuit. It will need another magnificent effort, and some good fortune, for both cars to finish the first race tomorrow in the lower end of the top 10, which would give them an opportunity to race for a podium in Rounds 26 and 27.
Rob said: “That was a very difficult qualifying session. It’s the first time today that I’ve run the car with full weight on it and it was really hard work. With such long straights the car really suffers especially when you’re coming out of very slow corners. With the extra ballast added from our success at Brands and the additional weight that’s been given to us it’s just a no goer at the moment - but we have to make do with what we’ve been given. This is one of the worst circuits to carry weight on because when you come out of a second gear corner and then are flat out in sixth in a straight line uphill you’re going to struggle a bit. We’ll try and stay out of trouble and do the best we can tomorrow.”
Jason said: “It was one of those annoying qualifying sessions really where you’ve got oil spilt on the track, no one wants to be the first out and the track is never quite as good afterwards. My car was very good before the oil went down, but I managed only one timed lap before the red flag came out. It wasn’t a particularly cautious lap, but there was probably another tenth left in me. The trouble is we’re struggling with the added weight on the car, which I think is costing us about three tenths a lap. It’s really frustrating that we’re in this position. It’s hard enough as it is, but for the team to have worked so hard to develop the car to find every tenth that we have, the extra weight has put us right back where we started. But those are the rules and we have to play to them and we have to improve our car and do the best job we can.
“The difficulty at this circuit is that there are a couple of very heavy breaking areas after very high speeds and obviously we’ve got smaller brakes. Along with that there’s also some quite twisty technical fast stuff which in theory should be good for our car but the problem is this is a power track and our car isn’t quite up to speed with some of the other teams and we’re carrying a lot of weight. It’s not that our car doesn’t suit this circuit, it’s just that our hands are tied at the moment and I don’t think our true performance is being shown – the weight is a big hindrance and an unjust one in my opinion.”
The first of three 16 lap BTCC races at Snetterton starts tomorrow at 11.10, the result of which will determine the grid positions for Race 2 – where the top 10 finishers start in reverse order. Race 2 starts at 13.40 and the results of that race will determine the grid positions for Race 3, which begins at 16.05.