Brands Hatch, Kent 30th March 2014 - MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save Team made a positive start to the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season today (30 March), taking points finishes for both cars in all three races during an action-packed opening weekend at the mighty Brands Hatch circuit.
Saturday’s practice sessions were played out in beautiful crisp sunshine and showed the Triple Eight Race Engineering run MG6 GTs had pace, with Jason Plato topping the time sheets in both sessions, securing a second place start for race one in qualifying. Sam Tordoff also progressed as he worked through setup options in practice, but struggled to convert this into a top-ten qualifying session, finishing twelfth.
A well-mannered opening race on Sunday saw Jason give it everything in the opening laps to pass Andrew Jordan's Pirtek Racing Honda, but try as he might he couldn’t find a way past, but continued to hound the reigning champion to the flag, finishing just 0.5s adrift in the #99 MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save MG6 GT.
Sam made ground on those around him in the first half of race one and put in a strong drive in the remainder of the 24 lap race to finish tenth, a two-place improvement on his starting position.
Race two promised a lot for both Jason and Sam, but before the cars had set off for the first corner, Jason suffered an issue with the fly-by-wire throttle system and was left on the grid. After working through reset cycles he quickly got going and set about a mighty come back drive from 29th place, making the most of a brief safety car period, resulting in a 14th place finish and two important championship points.
Building on a solid start, Sam advanced through the field in the #88 MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save MG6 GT, and by lap ten was up to twelfth having disposed of rivals Warren Scott and Mat Jackson. Try as he might, Sam just couldn’t pass the Vauxhall Insignia of fellow young gun, Jack Goff, and he remained in 12th position until the finish, taking the fastest lap of the race with an impressive lap of 48.95s.
With Pirtek Racing having claimed two wins out of two, race three was crucial for both MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save drivers. Following the demotion on the grid of three drivers by the race director after race two, Jason lined up eleventh, a place behind Sam. With temperatures now eight degrees cooler than the previous race, both drivers challenged hard to make up places and Sam kept Jason behind him as they carved through the field until the double champion snuck up the inside at Druids on lap seventeen.
From here Jason successfully set about his pursuit of a second podium of the day, buoyed by the positive words, “We can do this”, of his engineer Carl Faux over the radio. Having made light work of 2012 champion, Gordon Shedden, Jason snuck past the BMW of Rob Collard on the penultimate lap by tucking in behind Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Tourer for a morale boosting third place finish. Further back Sam took twelfth; rounding out a third points finish in as many races for the Bradford-born youngster.
The result sees Jason sit fifth in the championship standings (38 points), nine points adrift of leader Jordan, and Sam eighth with 17 points as the team heads towards the fast sweeping corners and long straights of the 1.95 mile Donington Park circuit on the Easter Weekend (19-20 April)
Jason Plato, Driver, #99
“It was mega, I loved it (race three). I’ve had quite a few of those sort of races in my career coming from the pack, it’s brilliant fun. Of course you can only do that when you get your car hooked up, and the big story for me this weekend was the step change we’ve made with the soft tyre. Last year we weren’t the best on the softs and after that performance we are the best. It’s an area we looked at over the winter; an area we needed to improve on and I believe the developments made on the car have done the job. I’m very confident moving forwards. On the media day we were quickest in the wet, last year here we were night and day quicker than anyone else in the wet and now we’re quick in the dry on the softs. We just need to understand why we keep having some gremlins into the system. We’re not going to not win the thing because of a lack of pace; it’s going to be because of gremlins, electrical or whatever it might be. My tail is in the air though after that result, we’ve turned it around and we’re motivated now we’ve had our first podium finish on the soft tyre.”
Sam Tordoff, Driver #88
“I’m a bit deflated, it was a frustrating weekend for me. It was meant to be the start of a good season and we’ve been on the back foot really. The positives; three points finishes, three good starts and some good pace in race two. I was also pleased with our pace on the soft tyre on race three, it was possibly too good and that’s what hurt me towards the end of the race. I was also carrying some damage in that race and I lost a few places towards the end. We’ve got work to do before Donington, but we’ve tested there and I think it’s a circuit that will suit us much better; it’ll also spread out the field more too. We’re still in the mix; there are 27 races to go, so it’s no drama. It’s going to be a tough season and I don’t think anyone will walk away with it based on this weekend.”
Ian Harrison, Triple Eight Race Engineering Team Principal
“Despite a few reliability issues that were out of our control, and lets be clear, it doesnt matter whether youre spending millions in F1 or a lot lot less in BTCC, things can go wrong, it was a solid enough start to the season. Full credit to the whole team for the effort that enabled that to happen. There's no doubt that the quality of the grid has improved significantly this season; you saw that in qualifying where a second off the pace resulted in a 24th place grid position. In race 3 JP showed that we have made some good progress with the soft option tyre and we should be in good shape for Donington in three weeks.”