Plato the pace-setter in FP1
Jason Plato proved to be the pace-setter in free practice one at Thruxton after pipping the BMW of Andy Priaulx by just 0.068s. Plato’s session did end on a sour note, however, when a puncture on his final tour saw his car fired off and into the barrier at the Club Chicane.
With all drivers running on brand new Dunlop Sport Maxx hard tyres – only used at the high-speed and abrasive Thruxton circuit – quick times were arguably set sooner than in most free practice sessions, but the challenge of teams and drivers alike is to maintain performance in the rubber for a race duration. Thankfully for Plato and Team BMR is that the tyre delaminated after what would be a normal race distance, but the squad and Dunlop will be working hard to ensure that car set-up remains within the limitations of the tyre.
“The car was feeling good, then right at the end of my run at the final chicane I was half-way through the braking zone and the front left went,” said Plato. “We’re looking into what caused it now – I didn’t get any vibration or warning but they’re clever lads so I’m sure they’ll work it out. Maybe we need to back it off a little – it certainly looks that way!”
The Team BMR VWs are expected to go well here – the machine having scored its first podium at the venue two years ago – and reigning champion Colin Turkington confirmed its credentials by clocking the third fastest time. The Portadown driver is carrying 66kgs of success ballast due to being second in the championship, but the VW seems to cope well with the extra weight.
The same can seemingly be said for the new Honda Civic Type R with Gordon Shedden taking fourth in FP1 ahead of the WIX Racing Mercedes of Adam Morgan.
Rob Collard joined team-mate Priaulx in the top six, potentially signalling a return to front-running form for champions West Surrey Racing. The team’s trio of BMW 125i M Sports had been struggling for straightline speed early in the season but there’s little doubting the chassis performance and stability in the car, which should serve WSR well at a place like Thruxton.
“It’s mega here – the circuit is really balls-out and old school and I love it,” enthused Priaulx. “I’m very happy with second in FP1, we’ve definitely made a big step forward since Donington Park. I think we might struggle for outright pace in qualifying, but we’ve got a good race car and the run we did at the end of that session was encouraging.”
MG’s Andrew Jordan will be targeting his fourth successive pole position at the Hampshire circuit – albeit in different machinery to the previous three – and the 25-year-old finished seventh quickest in the opening practice session. Two of the stars from Donington Park – Aron Smith and Matt Neal – were next on the timesheets with Power Maxed Racing’s Dave Newsham completing the top ten.
Click here for a full classification from Free Practice 1 at Thruxton.