BTCC: Silverstone rounds 21, 22

Battle of the Gladiators part 2: Silverstone, 21st and 22nd rounds of the BTCC By Susan Sheridan - Motorsport.com Sprint race The sprint race saw Phil Bennett take his first win of the season. Carrying 60 kilos less than the top runners...

Battle of the Gladiators part 2: Silverstone, 21st and 22nd rounds of the BTCC

By Susan Sheridan - Motorsport.com

Sprint race
The sprint race saw Phil Bennett take his first win of the season. Carrying 60 kilos less than the top runners gave him a distinct advantage! The race was Bennett's from start to finish but the production class entrants didn't have such a cut and dried result. Yet again the attraction for Roger Moen and Simon Graves to hit Mat Jackson was just too strong to resist. With appeals flying in from all corners, the most unexpected result was that of young Tom Boardman clinching his first podium of the year with a third place. Still, the glory of Tom Boardman and Phil Bennett was overshadowed as the big boys did battle, gladiator style.

Second race
The most controversial moment of this exciting weekend was the coming together of Jason Plato and Yvan Muller on the final lap. The championship battle heated up nicely as Muller and Plato pushed and shoved each other around the track. But when the chequered flag was in sight, Plato's aggressiveness took him a step too far and he rammed Muller's front left tyre, pushing it 90 degrees. Plato shot off into the sunset leaving Muller to limp home. The damage to Muller's car gave James Thompson the chance to grab second position, the angry Frenchman taking a disappointing third. The postrace press conference was electric as the two gladiators avoided eye contact and gave their own version of the race, prompted by their PR people.

Plato: "First lap I got inside Phil going into Becketts, passed Phil, then Yvan had a bit of a run at me. I'm not sure where he was relative to me as I was going to the left, but anyway he got me in the right hand side going down towards the hairpin. I think the lap after or a couple of laps later, he made a mistake going into Becketts where I had done the lap before or effectively where he did me, then I did the same with him. Got down to the right hand side and he put me on the grass big style, I was all four wheels on the grass and actually lost two positions in that. Yvan for some reason failed, just stopped, coming out of Becketts, two or three laps later, he just backed off, and me and James nearly parked into the back of him. Then it was a case of getting off after that."

Jason chose his words carefully, but now we got to the best bit.

"I was starting to reel Yvan in in the second half of the race towards the end, but then I was a bit unlucky with some back markers and lost the bit of a gap that I gained and then I set off after him again. The last three or four laps I was closing quite rapidly, and then the last lap going into Bridge Yvan made a big mistake and went sideways, and doing fifty mile an hour less than me going into Priory, and I turned in and went down the inside, got up on the grass and he just tried and closed the door. My speed was too high, he made the mistake and he needed to concede the corner, unfortunately if you look at it you realise it was one of those things, he shouldn't have closed the door, I was going too fast, I was committed. You know he wanted to win the race and so did I. If you look at the damage on the car you see that my front wheel hit his front wheel, as far as I'm concerned I was alongside. You know, with everything that has gone on in this series today people are gonna be pointing fingers, and making accusations, but let's look at the evidence first."

MS: "So you say it's purely a race incident?"

Plato: "Yeah, had Yvan not lost his car at Bridge, then things wouldn't have happened, he was really slow. I guess he was doing fifty mile an hour less than me and he was looking to which way I was going to go, just trying to defend, then I went left quickly, got up on the grass, which you do there, he just tried to close the door, which you can't. Unfortunately, he won't see it that way, he's made a mistake and it's cost him the win."

Jason may have been trying to convince himself that the race result was fair and that he should keep the win, but Yvan had different ideas.

Muller: "Good work from the team all weekend. I was going quite well until the end, I lost a bit of time first with the Ford Focus. Just a question, the Ford Fiesta, how many there is car like this, every three lap I do see one? {Yvan is very comical in the face of defeat} (I had) a small misfire at Bridge then the engine came back I turn in for the next left and his car came in my door, I can imagine the excuse with Jason, I made a mistake he came too quick and blah blah blah, always the same old bullshit."

M.com: "You refused to shake his hand?"

Muller: "Yeah, I refuse of course, if somebody, how can you imagine I would do that, I am not enough hypocrite to do that, I am not hypocrite at all, me!"

Colleagues from the press then asked Yvan about the side-by-side incident earlier on in the race when he had pushed Jason into the grass.

Muller: "Did you see three laps before, who pushed who in the grass? It was just the other way round first he forgot to say. Three laps after the same thing the same place. Again you just remember what the other did to the other one, I remember what he had done, then I think it's time to give him that back."

M.com: "Are you going to appeal against the win?"

Muller: "I am to do nothing, the team will decide, and if they are fair they will decide what to do, if the win is confirmed and they agree that's it. I have nothing to say."

Muller and Plato were each called in front of the appeal board and they both gave it their best shot, but after looking at the video evidence and debating the drivers' depositions, the board finally gave Jason Plato a 30-second penalty for dangerous driving. This means Muller took second as James Thompson was gifted with the win.

The decision was bound to be controversial no matter what the outcome. With the final race and the championship spoils looming in the distance, the BTCC drivers are wound up like Anna Nicole Smith's breasts squeezed into a bra two sizes too small: bursting to get out and show the world what they can do. Tensions are high and the clock is ticking. Who will take glory at next week's penultimate leg of the British Touring Car Championships? And hold onto your hat -- it's going to be a bumpy ride!

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