Jason Plato bravery brushed aside the pain from the burns he sustained in a filming accident earlier in the week to qualify 4th for the first of three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Thruxton tomorrow (Sunday 14th October). Totally focused on getting the most out of his SEAT Sport UK Leon, he will line up behind three Vauxhall Vectas on the grid at the start of the BTCC finale, although he could have gone even quicker, had a big 130mph slide at Church, the fastest corner on the BTCC calendar, not cost him 3/10ths of a second.
With both hands in bandages and a nurse (Helen Smithson, a Theatre Sister from the private BMI Foscote hospital in Banbury) in attendance to make sure the burns to his hands, face and neck don’t get infected, Jason set a time of 1:18.125 early in the session. That was initially good enough for pole, until a series of fastest times dropped him to 6th. Team-mate Darren Turner then gave Jason an aerodynamic tow around the fast 2.356 mile circuit, enabling Jason to better his time and set a 1:17.856 to climb to 4th. It could have been a little quicker, had Jason not had a high-speed slide and lost the advantage of the tow for the remainder of the lap.
Darren set a time of 1:18.529, before bettering it by 0.582 second with a 1:17.947. His chances of setting an even better time was then compromised when he stepped in to help Jason.
Tom Coronel used the two free practice session to learn his way around Thruxton on his first visit to the Hampshire track, but it was the unfamiliar Dunlop tyres which were the most difficult to get used to. The 2006 World Independent Touring Car Champion did a great job to qualify the third SEAT Sport UK entered Leon in 12th.
Jason’s nine point Drivers’ Championship lead over Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra) remains, as Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra) gained the bonus point for qualifying on pole.
Jason Plato: “I had to throw caution to the wind and go for it. I was having a great tow from Darren and I came into Church corner a little too fast. I had a big sideways slide over the kerbs and lost the tow, so I guess I must have lost three-tenths of a second in total. I’m still pleased to have qualified fourth. The car’s good and I’m confident we have a good race set-up. I’m a lot more comfortable in the car than I thought I would be. It’s obviously far from perfect, but driving as fast as I can is the only thing I’m thinking about and as for the pain, adrenalin’s a wonderful thing!”
Darren Turner: “Jason did a good time in qualifying; even without his injuries that would have been a good time and he very nearly went three-tenths quicker. I set an okay time, but then I sacrificed my remaining laps to help Jason. We’re here as a team to do a job and there are three titles up for grabs, so that’s normal and it’s just something we have to do this weekend.”
Tom Coronel: “Everything has been okay today. Thruxton is a very nice circuit and I’m slowly getting used to the Dunlop tyres, which are a lot different to the Yokohama tyres we use in the World Championship. I didn’t pick up a tow at all during qualifying and on my best lap I lost time at the final chicane when I got delayed behind a slower car which was coming into the pits. I would have liked to be further up the grid, but it’s not been a bad day’s work.”