The MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save Team took a sublime 1-2 double in tricky conditions yesterday at the Donington Park round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, as the Leicestershire circuit experienced a multitude of weather pattens, which in turn delivered an outstanding day of racing.
After obliterating the previous lap record for the 1.979 National circuit the day before, Jason Plato completed an impressive lights-to-flag victory in Sunday’s first race, leading home team-mate Sam Tordoff by 0.442s. The pair were in a class of their own as they battled throughout the first race of the weekend in decidedly treacherous conditions.
While their championship rivals fell away, Jason and Sam sensibly managed their wet tyres when the track began to dry. With three laps to go Jason stretched his advantage over his 25-year-old team-mate and the pair crossed the line over six seconds ahead of their nearest rival, reigning BTCC Champion, Andrew Jordan. The first race win also provided Jason with a further prize, the Tom Wheatcroft Trophy, which was awarded to him by Christopher Tate, Managing Director at Donington Park Limited, on the podium.
In the second race of the day, a prolonged downpour of rain prior to the start ensured wets would be the order of the day. This gave Jason and Sam the opportunity to showcase the much-improved wet weather performance of the Triple Eight Race Engineering-run MG6 GTs. Off the grid Sam and Jason, sharing the front row after the earlier success, both got away well with Sam just edging the two-time BTCC Champion.
In a race that saw the safety car complete more laps than some of the competitors, the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save Team twosome battled hard to come home first and second again, ahead of a trio of baying Honda Civics. The victory was Sam’s second BTCC career win and the Yorkshireman, who celebrated his 25th birthday the day before, confessed after the race it was one of the toughest races he’d ever driven.
The reverse grid draw saw Jason start in P5 and Sam in P6 for the final race of the day, and both drivers made a solid start off the line in the greasy, but dry conditions. Jason worked his way up to third by the end of the first lap and Sam improved to fifth; a safety car period brought the field together once more and Jason got the jump on Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Tourer, a position he held until lap 12. Both drivers quickly experienced the result of an aggressive soft tyre setup though and with their Dunlop rubber passing their optimum levels, slipped backwards. Jason held his own amongst an attack by three former BTCC Champions, Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan, to take sixth; Sam battled hard to take fourteenth and was pleased not to leave empty-handed.
The weekend’s success have boosted the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save Team’s position in the championship standings heading into the third weekend of the season at Thruxton (3-4 May) and the Greatworth-based squad sit second with 142 points, 22 adrift of Honda Yuasa Racing. The double 1-2 results have also thrust Jason and Sam into the Championship battle, with Jason joint leader, tied on 87 points with Jordan.
Jason Plato, driver #99
“It’s been a mega weekend for the team. It’s so pleasing we’ve got a car working in the wet and now we’re confident in all conditions. The first race showed we understand the MG in the wet, and it was a nice win. I’m also chuffed to win the Tom Wheatcroft Trophy, this place wouldn’t be here without the great Tom, and it’s a really nice thing to win. In the second race I got a good start initially but then I just hit the speed limiter button by accident – it was only a split second but it was enough to let Sam by. It was a small mistake and there were some small opportunities to have a go during the race, but at this point in the year there’s no need to take risks. We didn’t get the setup quite right in that final race. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it is and I’m not too concerned about it. The target is we’ve got to score a minimum of 40 points every weekend, and if we do that, we will win. It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses, but this championship is a tough championship to win. it’ll be tough this year, it was tough last year, the year before that, and the year before that. You don’t win a championship when your car is performing well, it’s the results when you have to start from the back of the grid or have a poor handling car that make the difference. I think we’re in a great position this year, and whoever wins it this year will probably be the champion of champions.”
Sam Tordoff, driver #88
“All in all a very good weekend. I needed to get back into the title hunt after a difficult meeting at Brands Hatch, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve clearly got a few things to improve with the soft tyre setup, there were a few anomalies, but overall very positive. We have faith with the car in the wet and the dry now, and while our results in race three weren’t ideal, the weight definitely made that worse. Stuff like that happens in touring cars, but we came away with forty or so points, which is a great haul of points. We can head to Thruxton in a positive mood.”
Ian Harrison, Triple Eight Race Engineering Team Principal
“We’ve shown that we’re really good on the normal tyre, really good in the wet; that’s great, really great infact. But, we seem to be a bit inconsistent on the soft tyre; we were really good at Brands with it, but we weren’t here. It’ll probably be something very simple, but the simple things are usually the difficult things to find. Okay we were carrying max success ballast in the third race, but that’s not the reason. Overall, based on that performance we hope it rains for the rest of the season.”
2014 BTCC driver standings (after round 6 of 30)
=1 Jason Plato (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save) 87
=1 Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing) 87
3 Gordon Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing) 86
4 Colin Turkington (eBay Motors) 84
5 Matt Neal (Honda Yuasa Racing) 79
6 Sam Tordoff (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save) 57
2014 BTCC Manufacturers Championship
1 Honda/Dynamics 197
2 MG/Triple Eight 193
2014 BTCC Teams' Championship
1 Honda Yuasa Racing 164
2 MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save 142