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MG KX Rockingham13Changeable weather and tricky track surfaces frustrated the MG KX Momentum team of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff at the latest rounds of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire last weekend.

The pair had shown superb pace in the qualifying session to lock out the front row of the grid after the timed session but rain shortly before the first of the weekend’s three races scuppered the team’s plans. The cars were primed for a dry race and, despite last minute changes to cope with the slippery surface, there wasn’t enough time to fully refine the two-litre turbocharged cars. Later on in the day, the weather dried and the team was once again chasing the perfect set-up amid the variable conditions.

Plato raced to a fifth and a sixth place finish in the first two races before a battling podium in the finale, while Tordoff, who was hampered with engine problems in race one, bounced back with a fifth and sixth in the last two events.

Plato said: “It was hugely frustrating, particularly after we had been so strong in qualifying. I was delighted with the pole lap after we had worked through some problems in free practice and our tails were up.

“We consulted every single weather agency possible to work out what would happen on Sunday – we even took advice from the military. But the strong winds on race day meant it was impossible to be totally certain what would happen.

“We had a dry set-up for the opening race, when it rained just before the start. We were able to make a few adjustments to make the car more suitable for the wet, but it wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t able to get any heat into the front tyres and that meant I was struggling for grip.

“We had a partially wet set-up for race two, when it dried and we were once again on the back foot. Charging to third in race three was the highlight of the weekend and I had a fantastic fight with Colin Turkington throughout the race. That was a highlight of a tough weekend.”

Plato said that the intermediate conditions – never fully wet or fully dry – highlighted some of the areas where the car needs improvement.

“We have work to do,” said Plato. “We know our car works in the dry and in the fully wet, but the halfway conditions we had at Rockingham really hurt us. It is annoying because this was a golden chance for us to bag some big points but we were scuppered. We were chasing the set-up all day and, whatever we did, we were just a little bit off. We had things go wrong that shouldn’t have and we need to cure that. This is such a competitive championship that you simply can’t afford to let chances like that pass by.”

Sam Tordoff’s opening race was ruined by an engine problem outside of the team’s control, but he put that out of his mind to claim two top six finishes later on in the day.

The Yorkshireman said: “I had a great drive in race two to bag fifth place from 16th on the grid. We lucked in with the dry weather, which was good for us. We had made a few set-up changes on the basis of race one and that worked as well.

“I think race three shows our Achilles’ Heel with the soft tyres. I went off like a bat out of hell trying to chase the leader and ultimately that is what has hurt us. My tyres gave up two or three laps before the others. I really was pushing. We need to work a bit harder to understand how to get the most from them, but sixth place was still a solid result,” added Sam.

MG KX Momentum team principal Ian Harrison said that the crew would return to base and go through the data from the weekend to try and discover the root of the problems that afflicted the cars. He has promised that the squad would bounce back at the next rounds in two weeks’ time.

“There was a glimmer of performance in the last race so that was good. If it is really dry, we are fast. If it is biblically wet, we are fast. If it is anything in between that, we are not,” explained Harrison. “We are just not operating in Autumn conditions. We know that. People keep asking ‘what’s going on, what is the problem?’ If we knew what it was, then we wouldn’t have a problem.

“Everybody’s working so hard to try and fix the problems that we have. The crew is under massive pressure. There is a lot of workload going on with the cars because we are chucking everything including the kitchen sink at it.

“We don’t like being where we are and if anybody thinks that we do, they are dreamers. We don’t come here to make up the numbers, and we will be working to our maximum to make sure we aren’t in this position again.”

The next round of the British Touring Car Championship takes place at Silverstone on September 29.

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