Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras battle at the sharp end at the high speed Thruxton circuit.
Unfortunately, a wet / damp track greeted Messrs Collard and Plato on Saturday morning, delaying the planned programme of runs. In fact, car #11 sat on the pit apron for the first 20 minutes, waiting for the track to dry.
After the inevitable red flag, Jason joined Rob on track, with both drivers looking to make up for lost time. FP2 was dry and less eventful, even warming up toward the end. After running P3 and P6, the PMR engineers explored some set up changes, allowing the Astras to slip back to P9 and P13 by the finish.
Track conditions remained dry and warm for qualifying. After the first runs, Jason was P5 and Rob was caught languishing down in 21st , only to move forward rapidly into P11. Both drivers were then frustrated by traffic on quick laps, before the Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras moved into P4 and P7 with five minutes to go. A red flag caused by Chilton being turn around at the final chicane by Blundell brought a temporary but lengthy halt to proceedings. After 15 minutes, all cars headed back out for the final roll of the dice, with Jason setting personal bests in sectors 1 and 2 before being impeded by Turkington and Jordan as he approached the chicane, losing at least a couple of positions in the final reckoning to end up 6th.
Rob was also looking to improve but was left frustrated in not being able to unlock the latent speed in the #9 Astra to slot into 9th for Race One.
Race day dawned sunny, with minimal wind, to affect the cars around the ultra-high speed and enormously challenging back section of the Hampshire circuit.
After an hilarious and always very engaging driver Q&A in front of the PMR VIP guests, drivers Jason Plato and Rob Collard were confident of a serious haul of Championship points in the Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astras.
Race 1 saw both drivers make good getaways, as the field powered into the flat-out Allard right hander. Jason secured 6th spot at the back of the lead train, whilst Rob fought side by side with Matt Neal for half a lap, finally having to cede into 10th. This almost immediately became 9th when Oliphant served a drive through for a jumped start.
The positions at the front stayed fairly static for the bulk of the race, with car #11 dropping off the lead train slightly toward the end to settle for a strong 6th , whilst just a couple of seconds further back, #9 was still looking to move further forward, managing to slice past Sutton for 8th place on the last lap.
Rain clouds started to threaten as the grid formed up for Race 2, with Plato carrying 24kg of ballast and Rob carrying 12kg. A very slow warm up lap by the pole sitting BMW compromised the front wheel drive cars’ tyre temperatures slightly but this didn’t seem to be too much of a problem for Jason as he immediately moved up to 5th. Looking racier than Race 1,
Jason’s progress was compromised on Lap 6, as Tordoff and Cammish tripped over themselves at the chicane, the PMR Astra having to brake to avoid a re-joining Tordoff. However, by Lap 9, Plato was back on Tordoff’s tail, getting a good run off the chicane to slide inside at Allard into P4.
Mired in the squabbling field a little further back, Rob lost out to Sutton in the opening skirmishes before settling down to a race long dual for 7th, 8th and 9th positions. The Hampshire based ace tried to slide down the inside of Sutton into the super-fast Church right hander, only for the Astra to snap sideways on exit, losing momentum and places to both Sutton and Ingram.
By Lap 11, spots of rain were starting to fall around the back of the circuit and both Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Astras were looking at gaining more places. Jason was closing on Cammish for 3rd and Rob was looking to get back passed Sutton. Whilst car #11 had to settle for 4th, car #9 expertly managed to get back past Sutton on the final lap to secure a hard earned P9.
The Race 3 tombola offered up mixed fortunes, with Rob drawing grid 3 and Jason grid 8, with 36kg of success ballast.
At the start, Rob got a little too much wheelspin and immediately had to go on the defensive against Butcher through Allard and on the run to the Complex. Braking late, the Astra’s cold rear tyres struggled to cope and spun 90 degrees across the track, missed by the pack but clobbered heavily by Morgan and triggering a Safety Car. In the melee, Jason was forced left onto the grass, losing 3 places in the process, dropping to 10th.
Rob dragged the battered Astra back to the pits with the PMR crew assessing damage over the radio and on the TV monitor in preparation for a pit stop. Suitably prepared, the team set into action, ripping the rear bumper off, checking the rear axle and sending Collard on his way, crucially without going a lap down.
On the restart, and in testament to the strength of the Vauxhall Astra, Rob set about moving forward from P26, whilst Jason was battling the BMW’s over P7, 8 and 9. Over the course of the next few laps the #11 Astra moved up to P8 and closed in on the Oliphant-Cammish-Ingram battle and an increasingly inspired Collard moved through to 23rd before flying around the outside of Smith on the exit of Goodwood. The move seemed to spook the MG as it then spun inwards, causing a second Safety Car.
On the restart, Jason consolidated his 8th position and Rob in his battered Astra just got quicker and quicker, moving up to P17 by lap 15 and then P16 two laps later, incredibly setting the fastest sector 3 time of the race. By lap 18 he was into the points and crossed the line in P14 after a great recovery drive, with Jason holding his own to finish P8 with a good haul of points.
Rob Collard, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra #9 said: “We scored some nice points in Race 1 & 2, setting ourselves up perfectly for Race 3. Unfortunately going into the complex in Lap 1 with cold tyres, I just lost the rear and span. The promising part of it was that the car was really strong on race pace, and we pulled back a lot of cars. Really positive for the race in August!”
Jason Plato, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra #11 said: “I got a brilliant start, which put me in a great position, but unfortunately after the safety car, I lost the gap we’d made up. The pace was there though, and the nice thing is we’ve improved the car in the fast bits. Happy with the weekend over all though, and at some point, all the balls will roll, and we’ll be spraying champagne.”
Adam Weaver, Team Principal, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing “Obviously the last race was really frustrating, but even in a severely damaged car, Rob proved he’s still got it and that the car is well on the pace. Both him and Jason have brought us another solid points haul; we just need some more podiums now!”
Martin Broadhurst, Technical Director, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing “Solid weekend over-all. Obviously Race 3 could’ve gone better, but we’ll have the car on the chassis jig and assess the damage within the next couple of days. Technically we’ve made some more changes with setup, and have found some more positives as we look ahead to the remaining rounds.”
Rob Collard – Car #9
Race 1. Grid 9. Result P8.
Race 2. Grid 8. Result P9.
Race 3. Grid 3. Result P14.
Championship position. P12.
Jason Plato – Car #11
Race 1. Grid 6. Result P6.
Race 2. Grid 6. Result P4.
Race 3. Grid 8. Result P8.
Championship position. P10.
Teams Championship – P5.
Manufacturers Championship – P4