SEAT Sport UK aims to complete its impressive debut season in the Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship at Donington Park in style this weekend, as it attempts to finish 2nd in the Teamsí category. Its Toledo Cupra drivers are also aiming for a high-flying finish, with Jason Plato battling for 3rd in the Driversí standings and Rob Huff looking for a hat-trick of race victories in his first touring car season.
Both Jason and Rob love racing at Donington Park, but for Jason in particular the Leicestershire track holds special memories for the 2001 BTCC Champion. He won his first ever car race there in 1990, driving in the Formula Renault Championship, while in 1997 he made his BTCC debut and qualified on pole for both races in a Williams Renault.
Jason said: ďI really canít wait for this weekend. Iím seven points behind Anthony Reid in the Driversí Championship and it will be a big battle between us to see who finishes third. I really wasnít expecting to be as high as this in our first touring car season, but now I am I really want to finish third! Every point is going to be crucial and weíll have to look very closely at our strategy and see what we can pull out of the bag. We didnít go very well at Donington at the BTCC media day back in March and we were well off the pace, so weíll just have to see what weíre like six months later.Ē
Rob said: ďIím going to go for my hat-trick of wins - there is no doubt about it! We're going to struggle with the weight again that's for sure and Iím going to have to start the weekend with sixty-five kilos of ballast. That is really going to hamper me early on during free practice, qualifying and in the first race. At least it will let me get a good set-up with the weight and as Jason will start off a lot lighter than me he will be able to establish a good set-up without success ballast. As the race day progresses, and my car gets lighter and Jasonís gets heavier, we might be in a position to swap settings, which will give us both a good heavy and lighter set-up. In theory it should work, but weíll have to wait and see if weíre in a position to do that.
ďI really like the Donington circuit, although I havenít got much race experience there. I raced a Clio once and went from twelfth to third on the opening lap and Iíve done a few races there in an MG, but thatís all. Iím really looking forward to going back to Donington with the Toledo Cupra Ė itís going to be a completely new experience.Ē
The BTCC race weekend at Donington gets underway with two 40 minute free practice sessions on Saturday 25 September, starting at 09.05 and 12.20, followed by a 30 minute qualifying session starting at 15.20. The final three rounds 28, 29 and 30 of the BTCC then take place on Sunday 26 September, with three 16-lap races starting at 11.20, 13.40 and 16.40.
Sixteen touring car masters spanning four decades will race for the coveted BTCC Masters Champion of Champions title on Sunday, when they go head-to-head in identical SEAT Sport UK-prepared Leon Cupra Rs around the Donington Park circuit.
Itís billed as one of the most mouth-watering touring car races ever to be held in the UK, as never before have so many champions raced against each other.
Contesting the BTCC Masters race are eight former BTCC Champions - Frank Sytner (1988), John Cleland (1989 and 1995), Robb Gravett (1990), Tim Harvey (1992), Gabriele Tarquini (1994) ), Frank Biela (1996), Alain Menu (1997 and 2000) and Jason Plato (2001). They will be joined by Paul Radisich (Touring Car World Cup Winner in 1993 and 1994) who is flying in from Australia just for this race and former BTCC stars Jeff Allam (1974-94), Kelvin Burt (1990-97), Julian Bailey (1991-95) and Patrick Watts (1992-97). Matt Neal (the four-times Independents Champion) and Anthony Reid (multiple race winner and twice Championship runner-up), who have each won three races in this yearís BTCC, will also race in the Masters, while the super 16 is completed by F1 star Johnny Cecotto, who raced in the BTCC in 1995.
Jason said: ďIíve no scores to settle. Thereís only one person Iíve fallen out with and thatís Yvan Muller, but heís not doing it because Vauxhall wonít let him. ďIt will be great to race with the calibre of these drivers. I canít wait. What an event Ė it will be amazing to be part of it. Itís going to be very hard fought: none of this Ďafter you, sirí.
ďFor me the BTCC Masters race is important because all of the people that I watched racing when I was growing up will be there, and now Iím going to race against them. We will all want to win. Absolutely everyone will want to win and it would be great to be crowned ĎBTCC Masters Championí. Itíll be a great thing to have on your CV and a fantastic event to be part of.Ē