Btcc LogoMomentum swings Plato’s way

MG completes clean sweep during Dunlop tyre test at Snetterton

Jason Plato was the fastest man around the Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk today (10 July) after his MG KX Momentum Racing team-mate Sam Tordoff set the pace in the first day of the Dunlop tyre test on Tuesday.

The BTCC field was again out in force, with 22 drivers setting a time across the morning and afternoon sessions. The weather threw another variable into the mix today, as the early morning saw overcast conditions and cooler temperatures compared with yesterday.

The two MGs were fast right from the off, but it was Plato that took the initiative and posted a time faster than anything seen in the hotter conditions on Tuesday. Tordoff’s lap times were consistent, but by the end of the day, Plato had pulled a gap of almost half a second to the rest of the field. Interestingly Plato’s time was clocked using the regular 2013 medium compound, whilst Tordoff set almost identical times while running both the current soft tyre and a 2014 Dunlop prototype during separate race runs.

Behind the two manufacturer-backed cars it was Jack Goff who was perhaps the surprise of the day. He posted the third quickest time in the RCIB Insurance Racing Vauxhall Insignia having saved his only fresh set of tyres until conditions were ideal just before the lunch break. The reigning Renault Clio Cup UK champion was also strong in the first day of testing, and will be going into the race weekend at Snetterton in August full of confidence.

The eBay Motors team worked through an extensive testing programme across the two days, with Colin Turkington in particular testing a variety of compounds to assist Dunlop with tyre development. The team also backed up the pace it showed at the most recent BTCC event at Croft, with Rob Collard setting the fourth fastest time of the day, and Turkington a couple of places further back in sixth. Turkington’s time was set in the morning session while he was using a potential 2014 compound from Dunlop.

Motorbase come away from the test in good spirits having had three drivers out testing its NGTC Ford Focuses. After running extremely well the previous day, Nick Tandy once again impressed in the #4 machine, today helping the team with development on damper and chassis settings. This translated into good pace in the afternoon for both regular drivers Aron Smith and Mat Jackson who posted the fifth and eighth fastest times respectively on the Dunlop SportMaxx medium compound tyre.

Pirtek Racing opted not to run any brand new tyres during testing today, and instead focused on long-runs and race simulations. Andrew Jordan completed the most laps of any driver – an impressive 94, and the team is hoping this will pay dividends over a race distance when the championship arrives in Norfolk next month. Jordan was another driver who assisted Dunlop with 2014 tyre evaluations during the test.

It was another busy day for Team HARD, as once again they had two new drivers testing its second Vauxhall Insignia. In the morning it was Joe Girling who took to the track, and despite issues with the alternator early on he managed to run for 30 laps. In the afternoon it was Warren Scott, who will be driving a Team HARD-prepared VW Passat for the remainder of the season, who got his first taste of NGTC machinery.

The BTCC returns to Snetterton on 4/5 August for rounds 16, 17 and 18 of the championship, and the teams that tested this week will be looking to put what they have learned to good effect around the three-mile circuit.

Jason Plato said: “We’ve had a very good test these last two days – we’ve been doing a lot of race runs and we understand our car a little bit more. I think it’s a strong development path we’re going on – if you look at the times both Sam and I have been quick all day long, and not just over one lap. We’ve stuck to our plan – we’ve not being going out to show off, we had a strict programme of tests to go through and we’ve completed it which is important. It’s probably the best test we’ve ever done.”

Aron Smith said: “Over the last few days we’ve been playing around with just about everything, which is nice because on a race meeting you don’t usually have time to go over it all. It’s been a problem for us all season, but now the areas that we have been struggling with we’re strong on, which has allowed us to focus on other areas that we haven’t looked at yet. Having both Nick and Mat here as well as myself has brought us on leaps and bounds by tripling our testing mileage.”

David Bartrum said: “We’re very pleased with the day – the testing has been invaluable. Having Nick Tandy out yesterday doing some really fast running gave us some great information to use overnight and get closer to where we want to be. I think we’ve got a good base line for when we come back here in a few weeks time.”

Jack Goff said: “Some of the things we’ve tried at this test have made a massive improvement to the way the car feels. The balance is really good now – it’s probably the best the car has ever felt. I did that time at the end on brand new tyres, and it was the first time we’ve run new tyres all test. It’s not quite perfect yet and there’s a bit more time in the bag, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Colin Turkington said: “It’s been very productive. We’ve probably spent a day in total testing new tyres and seeing how they’ll work with our car. This afternoon we really got to work on the car and have made some small gains. Everybody else seems to have moved forward too – it’s hard to read too much into the times though as it very much depends when you do your lap as to the performance you can extract from the car. I haven’t actually raced on the new layout before so it’s good to get my eye in around the circuit.”

BTCC Dunlop Tyre Test, Snetterton, 10 July, Combined Classification – Top Ten:

1 Jason Plato (MG KX Momentum) 1:57.248
2 Sam Tordoff (MG KX Momentum) +0.474
3 Jack Goff (RCIB Insurance Racing) +0.541
4 Rob Collard (eBay Motors) +0.597
5 Aron Smith (Airwaves Racing) +0.701
6 Colin Turkington (eBay Motors) +0.734
7 Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing) +0.870
8 Mat Jackson (Airwaves Racing) +0.992
9 Nick Tandy (Addison Lee Motorbase) +1.231
10 Mike Jordan (Pirtek Racing) +1.353