Having dominated the previous HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship race meeting at Snetterton, SEAT Sport UK heads to Oulton Park this weekend (26/27 July) aiming for more race wins with its Leon TDI.
SEAT Sport UK has scored five race wins (four for Jason Plato and one for Darren Turner) and 12 podium results in the 18 races so far completed in 2008, despite only having its new diesel-engined Leon for four months and having to conduct virtually all its testing during a race weekend. The Leon TDI has increasingly shown its race-winning potential, and having scored two wins in three races last time out, the team is aiming for continued success in Rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the BTCC in Cheshire.
Last year at Oulton Park, the petrol-engined Leon was superb in the corners but lacked the straight line speed to overtake on the straights. Now with the extra torque of the turbocharged diesel engine attached to the car’s acclaimed chassis, the team hopes the Leon TDI will be good in all sections of the 2.26 mile Oulton Park Island Circuit. However, having never run the Leon TDI at Oulton Park before, the mix of high and low speed corners, plus the dramatic change in gradient, will prove a tough technical challenge for the drivers and engineers as they aim to find a good set-up in free practice so they can challenge for pole position in qualifying.
Jason has a good record with SEAT at Oulton Park, having qualified on pole there in 2005 and ’06, winning twice and scoring five podiums in 12 starts.
Darren’s BTCC outing last year was the first time he’d raced at Oulton Park since 1998, and the first time in a touring car, yet he finished the weekend with a 3rd place podium finish.
Jason Plato: “It would be nice to have two days of testing before Oulton Park, like we had before Snetterton, but c'est la vie. Arriving at each new circuit with the Leon TDI is like taking a step into the unknown, but at least the more we learn about the car the smaller those steps become. It might just come down to getting a few key corners right, like it did at Snetterton, and if we can make the car go well at Druids and Cascades, which are crucial corners at Oulton Park, then I think the rest of the lap might look after itself and we’ll be very strong. I’m not looking at the points tables at the moment. We’ve got some ground to make up, so it’s simply a case of cracking on and win races – and if we do that the Championship will come to us. There is still a long way to go, Fabrizio [Giovanardi] hasn’t had a bad weekend yet and we’ve had a couple, so it could all change very quickly. I’m quietly optimistic about this weekend and really looking forward to Oulton Park.”
Darren Turner: “I’ve not had a race meeting this season where I’ve not had one DNF or a low finish for some unlucky reason, and such is the format of race day that that has had a huge effect on the points I’ve been able to score. I’m going to Oulton Park with the aim of getting three strong results and scoring some big points. We’ve made some good progress with the Leon TDI; Snetterton was always going to be our strongest circuit, but what we’ve learnt about the car over the last four months gives us more options for the other circuits and it bodes well for the remainder of the season. We have to hit the ground running at Oulton Park, use free practice to find a good set-up, make an impact in qualifying and get the three good results we were due at Snetterton. We have to score some big points in the Manufacturers’ Championship and with me down in eighth place and a long way off the lead in the Drivers’ standings, we have to try and help Jason, who is right up there in third, close the gap on Fabrizio Giovanardi so there is another exciting battle for the title again at the end of the season.”
Scott Dennis, SEAT UK Motorsport Manager: “We have always gone well at Oulton Park and we’re quietly confident that the Leon TDI will be competitive there. We’ve only had our new diesel package for four months, so to have achieved five wins and twelve podiums in the first six race meetings highlights the magnificent work the team has put in so far this year. We proved last time out at Snetterton that we can find a very competitive set-up and win races, and with all the expertise that we are gaining on the car, we have to try and put in a similar performance at Oulton Park.”
The BTCC race weekend at Oulton Park begins with two 40-minute free practice sessions on Saturday 26th July, starting at 09.00 and 11.40, followed by a 30-minute qualifying session starting at 14.45. Rounds 19, 20 and 21 of the BTCC take place on Sunday 27th July, with the three 15-lap races starting at 12.45, 15.00 and 17.40.
Ted Kravitz and Janie Omorogbe will present live coverage on ITV4, with two visits to Oulton Park on race day. The first is from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, and following live coverage of the finish of the Tour de France, the BTCC returns with more live racing from 5:00pm to 6:30pm. Race commentary will come from Ben Edwards and Tim Harvey.