Donington Park BTCC: Plato tops practice from Smiley

British Touring Car Championship wins record holder Jason Plato topped free practice for the latest round at Donington Park with a last-ditch effort in the second session.

Donington Park BTCC: Plato tops practice from Smiley

The bespectacled 53-year-old veteran “put some good boots on for a quali sim” in the closing moments in his Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra, dislodging long-time pacesetter Josh Cook from the top of the times.

Chris Smiley moved to the fore at the same time, his Excelr8 Motorsport Hyundai i30 N also bettering Cook’s best, but falling 0.090 seconds short of Plato’s marker.

“We’ve found some stuff in the week which we’ve been struggling with all year,” said two-time champion Plato.

“We certainly found some issues with how my engine performed – we found some strange things that were very apparent [last time out] at Silverstone, to do with minuscule applications of the throttle, where we were losing loads of boost. It was like throwing a parachute out of the back.

“Our engine guy has been working on it this morning and he thinks he’s found a solution to it – fingers crossed we’ve found it.

“The issues we’ve had we’ve chipped away, and each time found an improvement.”

While Plato and Smiley are not carrying any success ballast this weekend, Cook has 39kg aboard his BTC Racing Honda Civic Type R.

Cook looked superb on the circuit, and set the third fastest time in each of the two sessions, setting the theoretical best overall on sector times in the opening period.

Gordon Shedden was another late improver in a Team Dynamics Honda on 15kg of ballast, and he ended up fourth fastest, just 0.001s adrift of Cook.

Gordon Shedden, Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R

Gordon Shedden, Team Dynamics Honda Civic Type R

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Aron Taylor-Smith, buoyed by the recent announcement of a new multi-year deal with Team Hard, lay second to Cook in the times for much of the second session.

But the late improvements demoted the Irishman’s Cupra to sixth, with team-mate Jack Mitchell putting in by far the best performance of his BTCC career to go fifth in the late moments.

Rory Butcher, now with 27kg of ballast on board his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Corolla after his double Silverstone win, looked strong again – the Scot was fourth in the opening session, and ended up seventh in the second.

That was enough to edge out the Excel8 Hyundai of Tom Ingram, who did a good job on 66kg of success weight to go eighth fastest.

The fastest two drivers in the slower opening session failed to improve in the later period, although their morning times put them just inside the top 10 overall. Adam Morgan set the pace earlier on in his Ciceley Motorsport BMW 330i M Sport, pipping Senna Proctor’s BTC Honda by 0.003s.

Championship leader Ash Sutton looks to be a borderline top-10 contender with 75kg ballast aboard his Laser Tools Racing Infiniti Q50 following free practice, and he was slightly quicker than fellow title contender Jake Hill’s Motorbase-run MB Motorsport Ford Focus (57kg ballast) in each session.

Colin Turkington ran in the midfield in his West Surrey Racing-run BMW, on 48kg of ballast.

While the second session ran drama-free, the first featured two red flags.

The first came when Jack Goff parked his Team Hard Cupra on the grass on the inside of Schwantz Curve when it cut out, while the second – which came with a minute to go and led to a termination of the session – was caused by team-mate Nicolas Hamilton spinning into the Craner Curves gravel trap.

Donington Park BTCC - FP2 results

Cla Driver Laps Time Gap
1 United Kingdom Jason Plato 20 1'09.482  
2 United Kingdom Chris Smiley 21 1'09.572 0.090
3 United Kingdom Josh Cook 18 1'09.705 0.223
4 United Kingdom Gordon Shedden 21 1'09.706 0.224
5 United Kingdom Jack Mitchell 21 1'09.751 0.269
6 Ireland Aron Taylor-Smith 20 1'09.764 0.282
7 United Kingdom Rory Butcher 23 1'09.771 0.289
8 United Kingdom Tom Ingram 20 1'09.776 0.294
9 United Kingdom Stephen Jelley 21 1'09.855 0.373
10 United Kingdom Tom Oliphant 28 1'09.871 0.389
11 United Kingdom Ashley Sutton 25 1'09.874 0.392
12 United Kingdom Daniel Lloyd 16 1'09.880 0.398
13 United Kingdom Tom Chilton 22 1'09.927 0.445
14 United Kingdom Jake Hill 21 1'09.986 0.504
15 United Kingdom Senna Proctor 19 1'09.991 0.509
16 United Kingdom Adam Morgan 22 1'09.999 0.517
17 United Kingdom Daniel Rowbottom 18 1'10.011 0.529
18 United Kingdom Sam Smelt 23 1'10.025 0.543
19 United Kingdom Colin Turkington 25 1'10.115 0.633
20 Jersey Jack Butel 25 1'10.118 0.636
21 United Kingdom Aiden Moffat 27 1'10.265 0.783
22 Jade Edwards 25 1'10.389 0.907
23 United Kingdom Sam Osborne 22 1'10.491 1.009
24 United Kingdom Carl Boardley 25 1'10.577 1.095
25 United Kingdom Ollie Jackson 22 1'10.601 1.119
26 Andy Neate 16 1'10.690 1.208
27 United Kingdom Jack Goff 14 1'10.706 1.224
28 Nicolas Hamilton 23 1'10.988 1.506
29 Rick Parfitt Jr. 20 1'11.243 1.761

Donington Park BTCC - FP1 results

Cla Driver Laps Time Gap
1 United Kingdom Adam Morgan 13 1'09.840  
2 United Kingdom Senna Proctor 19 1'09.843 0.003
3 United Kingdom Josh Cook 17 1'09.939 0.099
4 United Kingdom Rory Butcher 18 1'09.950 0.110
5 United Kingdom Sam Smelt 19 1'10.085 0.245
6 United Kingdom Gordon Shedden 15 1'10.088 0.248
7 United Kingdom Chris Smiley 15 1'10.122 0.282
8 United Kingdom Ashley Sutton 20 1'10.184 0.344
9 United Kingdom Tom Ingram 17 1'10.222 0.382
10 Ireland Aron Taylor-Smith 16 1'10.277 0.437
11 United Kingdom Jake Hill 18 1'10.281 0.441
12 United Kingdom Tom Chilton 18 1'10.283 0.443
13 United Kingdom Jason Plato 14 1'10.335 0.495
14 United Kingdom Aiden Moffat 19 1'10.354 0.514
15 United Kingdom Daniel Rowbottom 15 1'10.389 0.549
16 United Kingdom Stephen Jelley 20 1'10.514 0.674
17 United Kingdom Colin Turkington 16 1'10.532 0.692
18 United Kingdom Daniel Lloyd 13 1'10.602 0.762
19 United Kingdom Ollie Jackson 18 1'10.616 0.776
20 United Kingdom Jack Mitchell 18 1'10.672 0.832
21 Andy Neate 18 1'10.803 0.963
22 United Kingdom Jack Goff 14 1'10.820 0.980
23 United Kingdom Tom Oliphant 18 1'10.823 0.983
24 United Kingdom Sam Osborne 10 1'10.998 1.158
25 Jersey Jack Butel 15 1'11.271 1.431
26 Nicolas Hamilton 18 1'11.400 1.560
27 Rick Parfitt Jr. 13 1'11.505 1.665
28 Jade Edwards 17 1'11.852 2.012
29 United Kingdom Carl Boardley 15 1'17.944 8.104
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