Plato heads up Free Practice Two
Jason Plato set the fastest time in a truncated second free practice at Oulton Park. He led the way from the two BMWs of Colin Turkington and Rob Collard in torrid conditions at the Cheshire venue as the session was cut short to allow the recovery of a stricken car from the gravel after thirty minutes of running.
For the first half of the session it looked like the leading duo from FP1 of Turkington and Collard would be the drivers to beat, with their team-mate Nick Foster also putting in a strong performance to make it an eBay Motors 1-2-3 with just over 20 minutes to go. By the end Foster slipped back to seventh, but with all three cars in the top ten the Oulton Park International circuit seems to suit the BMW 125i M Sport machines.
Turkington said: “I guess our pace is a bit unexpected in the wet. The grip is a lot better at Oulton, even in these conditions, so the car is working the tyre well. We’ve got all three BMWs up at the top so we’re really pleased.
“We’re at our strongest when it’s really wet. We’d also be happy if it was dry, but it’s probably the in-between stuff that might be difficult. The car is responding really well to my input and I knew we had a good car in the first lap of FP1. It gives you confidence and then you build up a good cycle of progress.”
As the circuit began to dry in the second half of the session the huge experience of former team-mates Plato and Alain Menu began to shine through. Menu had a consistently quick run, marching up the time sheets to go fastest for Chrome Edition Restart Racing. It wasn’t long, however, before the #99 MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save car toppled the Team BMR-run VW CC for top spot. Plato then went quicker still to secure the fastest overall time for the session – almost half a second quicker than the rest of the field – whilst Menu just slipped behind the eBay Motors duo to end up fourth.
The other Triple Eight-run MG machines of Sam Tordoff and Marc Hynes also had a strong session. Tordoff, who took his second BTCC victory at Donington Park earlier in the year, ended the session fifth but was over 1.5s slower than Plato, with Hynes just a tenth off Tordoff in sixth. Team Principal for the MG drivers Ian Harrison commented: “I think all our guys seem like they’re on the pace, which is good, and backs up the progress we believe we’ve been making in the wet. It seems we are hooked up reasonably well in these conditions although the weather doesn’t look as though it will be quite as bad tomorrow, but you just never, so we’ve got some good running in these conditions.
“A rear-wheel drive car is good to have when the weather is like this as BMW has shown, and Rob Austin was up there in FP1 too in his Audi. I think that’s only if it’s really wet though, so they might not have it all their own way if It starts to dry a bit.”
Championship leader Andrew Jordan ended the session in eighth, with Aron Smith and Gordon Shedden rounding out the top ten.
With ten minutes to go the red flag was thrown as the Crabbie’s Racing Ford Focus of Jack Clarke became beached in an unsafe position having run straight on at Lodge corner. With the time it would take to the recover the car the session was declared a result, and now the teams are making their final preparations ahead of qualifying at 15:20.
Watch qualifying live online at itv.com/btcc