RML/SEAT Sport UK BTCC race victory at Mondello
Jason Plato scored his second Green Flag MSA British Touring Car Championship race victory of the year at Mondello Park on Sunday, but the RML/SEAT Sport UK team deserved so much more after a fantastic performance at the twisty Irish circuit.
Jason won Round 14 of the 2004 series in his Toledo Cupra, but what has already been erased from the records is Rob Huff's superb 2nd place which had temporarily given RML/SEAT Sport UK its first ever one-two finish. Race officials deemed that Rob's incident with rival Michael Bentwood was worthy of exclusion - a harsh penalty which denied the team an historic result.
Jason also led the third and final BTCC race today before the safety car was unexpectedly deployed. A five second advantage was reduced to nothing, and having been hit by Colin Turkington who then took the lead, Yvan Muller collided with Jason to put the SEAT driver out of the race. The fact that SEAT Sport UK scored a race victory and still left Mondello Park feeling disappointed highlights the great progress the new team has made in just six BTCC race weekends and the high standards it sets itself.
With very little circuit data gathered due to a broken spark plug during free practice, Jason decided to make the most of race one to learn the track and secure a good grid position for Round 14. Running as high as fifth, he dropped back to finish the race in 9th position to guarantee 2nd place on the grid for the next race. It was a similar story for Rob, who not having raced at Mondello Park before used Round 13 to familiarise himself with the Irish circuit. Rob lifted off towards the end of the race take the chequered flag in 8th position and secure a 3rd place start in Round 14.
Jason and Rob drove a fantastic race from 2nd and 3rd on the grid respectively in Round 14 to give RML/SEAT Sport UK what it thought was its first ever one-two race result. However, shortly afterwards the race officials disqualified Rob for what they believed was an aggressive passing manoeuvre made on Michael Bentwood. Rob was consequently stripped of his 2nd place and made to start from the back of the grid for the final race of the day with his 30kg of success ballast from race two remaining on the car.
Jason had a flying start from pole position in Round 15 and found the pace to quickly pull away from the rest of the field, helped by a three-way battle for second position between James Thompson, Yvan Muller and Anthony Reid. Jason had a five second lead and looked on course for his second victory of the day when, on lap nine of the 14 lap race, the safety car was unexpectedly deployed. Having seen his comfortable lead vanish, Jason got away well on the re-start only to be caught and overtaken by Colin Turkington. Yvan Muller also tried to aggressively find his way through, forcing Jason off the road. With a damaged car, Jason came into the pits to retire with just four laps remaining.
Team-mate Rob had a blistering start from 20th and last on the grid to move up to 14th by the end of the first lap. Some impressive passing manoeuvres then saw the SEAT Cupra Champion climb to 8th, but almost immediately after the safety car period Rob noticed a strange noise coming from the front of the car and pulled over to the side of the circuit.
Rounds 16, 17 & 18 take place at Croft on 25th July.