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SEAT Leon TDI scores first BTCC diesel victory



7th May, 2008

FILE IMAGE: Seat Leon participating in the BTCC

Jason Plato smashed the Donington Park (England) lap record on his way to giving the SEAT Leon TDI its first British Touring Car Championship race win - and in doing recorded the first victory for a diesel engined car in the 50 year history of the series. He then finished 2nd and 3rd in the next two races to move from 6th to 2nd in the BTCC Drivers' Championship. Team mate Darren Turner had a great weekend too, running 2nd  in race one, coming from 19th  to finish 4th in race two and scoring his first victory of the season with a fabulous drive in extremely slippery conditions in the third and final race.

SEAT Sport UK got its BTCC campaign back on track with a strong display around the 1.96-mile National Circuit. The two race wins and four podiums sees SEAT half the gap with Vauxhall at the top of the Manufacturers' Championship and move ahead of Team Halfords in the Teams' standings.

Race day got off to a fantastic start when Jason won an incident filled race and smashed Yvan Muller's 2005 lap record by 0.212 seconds with a 1:12.677 (96.95 mph). Jason fought back from 5th and took the lead when pole-sitter Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra) ran wide at McLeans Corner on lap 14. As Onslow-Cole, Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra) and Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic) battled for 2nd  position, Jason was able to open a gap and eventually beat Neal to the chequered flag by 1:309 seconds. Darren had been running in 2nd  place when the intercooler air intake hose came loose. He came into the pits, and after some repair work he returned to the track 2 laps down. He eventually finished 20th and last, scoring valuable Manufacturer points for SEAT in the process.

Jason's Leon TDI was the heaviest it has ever been in race two, as the 1,180 kgs minimum base weight had 45 kgs of success ballast and 22 kgs of fuel added, making it a super-heavyweight 1,247 kgs. Having started from pole, he did superbly well to finish second, 2.880 seconds behind Giovanardi. Darren started from 19th  on the grid and had to take to the gravel at Redgate Corner as his path was blocked when Martyn Bell spun his Astra and was hit by Stuart Oliver (SEAT Toledo) and John George (Honda Integra). From last place, Darren launched a stunning comeback. He was 9th after five laps and 5th  after 10 and moved up to 4th  with a great overtaking manoeuvre on Neal at Coppice on lap 13.

After a great start in race three, Darren moved up to 2nd  after a brave move around the outside of Redgate and then took the lead on the opening lap when pole-sitter Shedden slid off. A dry line appeared in the middle sector of the race as the drizzle temporarily stopped and this allowed Onslow-Cole and Giovanardi to close in on Darren - until the two Vectra drivers collided at the chicane on lap 11. This gave Darren the breathing space he needed and whilst others around him spun, locked up and bounced off each other, the SEAT Leon TDI driver never put a foot wrong and scored his first win of the season. Jason had been a strong 3rd , but on a full wet weather set-up the dry mid sector really hurt him and having been passed by Giovanardi he dropped back off the leading trio in 4th . But he fought back and a brilliant move on Giovanardi at McLeans saw Jason snatch 3rd  place and complete a wonderful 1st, 2nd and 3rd  set of results.

Jason Plato (1st /2nd /3rd ): "It's been a great day in the office - for me, Darren and the entire SEAT Sport UK team. We've got some direction on the car and although the set-up we've found is a bit wild and makes the car tricky to drive, we know we have a theory that we've now proved makes the car quick. We've taken some gambles with set- up in recent weeks and it's beginning to pay dividends. Now we have to refine that and take some of the nervousness out of the car, because at the moment it's very snappy at the rear. We've scored a lot of points today and I'm now only sixteen points behind Fabrizio in the Drivers' Championship and we've gained ground in the Manufacturers' and Teams' tables. Finishing first, second and third is good in anyone's books and the Leon TDI has been very strong today. Everyone in the team has a smile of their face tonight, and that's important because even though Darren and I get to spray the champagne, it's been a huge team effort and a great day for all the lads at SEAT Sport UK."

Darren Turner (20th /4th /1st ): "Victory is just a great way to end the weekend. Race one was going well and then we had a technical problem, the second race was great fun because I came from the back of the grid and finished fourth and race three fell into my hands. I had a good start, moved up to second early on, Gordon Shedden then made a mistake and I had the lead for the majority of the race. I was under a lot of pressure from the two Vauxhalls behind and I was really pleased to see the chequered flag at the end of the race. It's just been a great race weekend for the team. Jason had the first win for the diesel Leon TDI in race one and has had strong races all weekend and both cars have been competitive. We're honing in to where the sweet spot of the car is and I can't wait for the next race. Donington, Thruxton and Snetterton are all circuits where we think the Leon TDI will be at its best. We've been proved right at Donington and the whole team can't wait to get to Thruxton to continue from where we've left off here."

Scott Dennis, SEAT UK Motorsport Manager: "SEAT Sport UK has returned to winning form in some style and I'm so proud of the whole team. Once again we faced the challenge on Saturday of finding the best set-up for the Leon TDI in the limited time available and our drivers and engineers rose to that challenge. Our results this weekend have enabled us to close the gap in the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships and we'll arrive at Thruxton looking to maintain the momentum we've built this weekend."

Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the BTCC take place at Thruxton in Hampshire on 17th-18th May, 2008.

BTCC Round 7
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…25:08.830
2. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...25:10.139
3. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...25:10.432
4. Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic)...25:12.184
5. Andrew Jordan (Honda Integra)…25:15.415
6. Steven Kane (BMW)…25:15.688
20. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…+ 2 laps

Fastest Lap: Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…1:12.677

BTCC Round 8
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...24:46.915
2. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…24:49.795
3. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...24:54.151
4. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…25:00.162
5. Tom Chilton (Honda Civic)…25:00.328
6. Andrew Jordan (Honda Integra)…25:06.585

Fastest lap: Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)…1:13.967

BTCC Round 9
1. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon TDI)…21:06.582
2. Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...21:08.008
3. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon TDI)…21:09.585
4. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)...21:10.016
5. Tom Chilton (Honda Civic)…21:10.550
6. Matt Neal (Vauxhall Vectra)...21:11.994

Fastest lap: Tom Onslow-Cole (Vauxhall Vectra)...1:13.967

British Touring Car Championship (provisional points after Round 9)
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi ….91pts
2. Jason Plato….75pts
3. Matt Neal…64pts
4. Gordon Shedden…62pts
5. Darren Turner….38pts
6. Mat Jackson.…56pts

1. Vauxhall….198pts
2. SEAT….183pts

1. VX Racing….178pts
2. SEAT Sport UK….132pts
3. Team Halfords….99pts
4. BMW Dealer Team UK….56pts

About the BTCC

The British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) was formed in 1958 and is the UK's most popular motor racing spectacle. Its race season comprises ten events at top circuits across the UK. It is contested by professional racing drivers in competition versions of everyday road cars, giving it tremendous public appeal. Around 300,000 watch the BTCC trackside each year.

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