crunch time for SEAT Sport UK

 at Snetterton

SEAT Sport UK begins the second half of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship at Snetterton on July 12/13 knowing that it must capitalise on what in theory should be an ideal circuit for its Leon TDI. After setting the fastest time around the Norfolk track at the official BTCC test recently, it has put itself in the best position to re-launch its challenge for the Manufacturers’, Teams’ and Drivers’ titles.

Snetterton is the second fastest circuit on the BTCC calendar and at 950 metres, Revett Straight is the longest in UK motorsport. But it’s not only the 62% of the lap which is run at full throttle that will please the Leon TDI, as the slow corners which lead onto the long straights should suit the torque and performance of the turbo-diesel package as well.

The recent BTCC test saw the SEAT Leon TDI top the time sheets on both days, with Jason unofficially breaking the 1:12.249 lap record (set by Matt Neal in a Honda Integra in 2005) with a 1:11.730. As that time was achieved in dry conditions, the team hopes that it won’t rain come race weekend, otherwise the good technical set-up it has will be made redundant in favour of a search for the car’s often difficult to find sweet spot on a wet circuit.

Jason has an excellent record at Snetterton, particularly in the four years he’s raced there with SEAT Sport UK. In 12 races since 2004, he has finished 11 of them, won three, scored five podiums and qualified on pole once. Two wins out of three races in 2006 was the highlight, and the 2001 Champion has his sights firmly set on repeating that achievement. He’ll start the weekend with 18kgs of success ballast, as he arrives at Snetterton 4th in the Drivers’ table.

Darren regards Snetterton as his second home, having lived in nearby Derham for five years in the early stage of his racing career. He’s also tested there more times than at any other track, doing thousands of miles in many different cars over the years. He hasn’t raced very much at Snetterton; last year’s BTCC race meeting was the first time he’d taken up his grid position on Senna Straight since a Formula Palmer Audi Championship race in 1998, yet in the three BTCC races Darren finished 6 th, 4th and 9th – and ran as high as 2nd in his Leon. As he’s currently lying 8th in the BTCC Drivers’ table, Darren will begin the race weekend with no ballast on his Leon TDI, and will be aiming to qualify on pole for the second race meeting in succession.

Jason Plato: “I’m really looking forward to Snetterton; of all the circuits on the BTCC calendar, this is the one that will suit our Leon TDI the best. As proven in the recent BTCC test, the layout of the track, with its slow corners onto long straights, will be ideal for us and I think we’ll be very quick there. My focus will be on trying to stick the car on pole and to win two races, plus a really good result in the third. That’s the plan. It’s a make or break weekend for us and we need to get some big results. The Leon TDI is definitely a better racing car now than it was prior to the test. We certainly made some progress with it. We have to take each race weekend as it comes, but I’m feeling confident that we’ve taken a good step forward.”

Darren Turner: “Snetterton feels like my home circuit. I used to live in nearby Derham and I’ve done a lot of laps around the track in a lot of different cars over the years – far more than any other circuit anywhere in the world. Of all the circuits in the BCC calendar, this is high on the list of places that will suit the Leon TDI. We did well at the test, better than we expected, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We now have to turn those test results into big points and begin to claw back some points on Vauxhall and Fabrizio Giovanardi. I’m eighth and Jason’s fourth in the Drivers’ standings, so it’s important we both score well at Snetterton and together give ourselves a boost in the battle for the Manufacturers’ title. If we can leave Snetterton with a big score, we’ll have something really positive to build on for the remainder of the season.”

Scott Dennis, SEAT UK Motorsport Manager: “Snetterton is a very important race weekend for us. It’s the one circuit in the UK which suits the Leon TDI better than any other, and we must capitalise on that. Our recent test there was very successfully. We confirmed theories which work and were able to improve the overall performance of the car, plus we closed a few doors on other ideas which we found didn’t work. We hope that all the effort everyone in the team has put in during the first half of the season will begin to reap rewards in the remaining fifteen races. We have a points deficit in the Manufacturers’, Teams’ and Drivers’ Championships to close, and we’ve put ourselves in a good position to start doing that at Snetterton.”

The BTCC race weekend at Snetterton begins with two 40-minute free practice sessions on Saturday 12th July, starting at 09.55 and 12.25, followed by a 30-minute qualifying session starting at 15.45. Rounds 16, 17 and 18 of the BTCC take place on Sunday 13th July, with the three 18-lap races starting at 11.10, 13.45 and 17.40.

ITV4 will have extensive live coverage, with two live broadcasts on race day between 12.30pm -2.30pm and 5pm-6pm. Highlights will be broadcast later the same evening on ITV4 and on ITV1 on Monday 14th July (check local TV listings for details).(ends)

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