Jason Plato tells us how to qualify on pole position at Silverstone, as the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship moves to the circuit this weekend:
“I love driving at Silverstone. It is the home of British motorsport and I am a director of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which owns and operates the venue – so for me, it is like coming home. The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races on the compact National circuit layout, so it is always all action.
“I was very pleased with my pole lap there last year because it was my last attempt at a qualifying time, and I nailed it. You will see that when I set off on my lap, I have the two works Hondas up in front of me. You never plan things that way – and although there is a benefit from slipstreaming another car, it is not something I usually want to do. You can use it to your advantage on a straight, but the amount of time you give away in the corners means that it is a double-edged sword.
“In qualifying, once you have been through the cycle of in and out laps and getting the tyres up to temperature, then you really only have one chance, and you have to take it no matter what the traffic situation is like.
“You can hear that I am flat in top gear going in to Copse – there is a little buzz of the rev limiter – before I turn in to the corner. On a hot lap, you can chuck it in to the apex earlier than you would in the race because you only have to worry about the tyre life for one lap, not the 20 or so that you do in a race distance. You can be quite aggressive but then you have to be careful on the exit. We have new rules about exceeding track limits, so you have to make sure that you don’t run wide, otherwise your lap time will be scrubbed.
“Going in to the Becketts complex, there is always a compromise. The yaw on the car from the left-handed kink never really settles down, and so you are braking and aiming straight for the apex of the right-hander that follows, rather than taking the absolutely perfect line. It is all about the braking and getting the car in to the corner.
“On the exit, initially you always feel like you are going to run out of road. You turn quite sharply to start with and then you unwind the lock and make a big arc of the exit. That means you tend to not scrub off the speed, which is crucial for the long straight that follows. It is a very tricky corner.
“From there, is it down the straight and in to Brooklands. Again, it is all about the braking and carrying as much speed as you can in to the apex. Because there is a relatively tiny straight after it, the exit is not vital – it is all about the entry. Get that right, and you have nailed the lap time.
“Then you come to the final turn: Luffield. It is a long corner but a crucial one. Ideally, you want a car with a little bit of oversteer here so that you can pivot the car around the front-end grip. If you do that, the majority of your turning is done at the apex phase and you can accelerate away from the corner without too much pain on the front tyres.
“If you don’t have that, you will heat up the fronts and that means the grip goes away, which leaves you with understeer – which, in turn, will kill your speed on the run to the start-finish line. It is a tough one to get right, and you’ll see that I had to overtake one of those pesky Hondas, too. There was a lot going on, but it was a very, very satisfying lap.”
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