Nash Surprise Series Leader After Donington

Story Highlights

  • 3 different drivers take home wins
  • Nash takes points lead
  • Plato has a weekend to forget

It feels unreal to be leading.

James Nash

This weekend's three races at Donington during rounds 4,5 and 6 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champions saw 3 different people reach the top step of the podium Matt Neal won race 1, Mat Jackson race 3 with race 2 winner Andrew Jordan enjoying the best day of all following up his win with a pair of second places however it is James Nash for Triple 8 who ends the weekend as surprise championship leader after a hat-trick of podium finishes.

Neal for the second time in a row started on pole however he got off to a poor start with the black Vectra of Nash slipping between the two Hondas to lead into the first corner. Towards the rear of the grid Dave Newsham got sandwiched between Liam Griffin and John George, which sent the Go Mobile Chevrolet of George into the wall and forced Newsham to retire at the end of the pit wall with a broken right front suspension. There was also further contact going through the first corner with Andy Neate spinning around Tony Gilham while Jeff Smith and Jackson both running wide dropping a number of places.

Matt Neal, Honda Racing
Matt Neal, Honda Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

At the front though it wasn't long before Neal got past Nash diving down the inside of the Vectra at the start of lap 2 into the first corner Redgate. Neal's team mate Gordon Shedden also tried his luck at passing Nash after he got sideways going down the Crainer Kerbs however he ended up losing a place to Jordan.

Jordan managed to claim second just a couple of laps later repeating Neal's earlier move into Redgate with Shedden getting past as well at the end of the lap after Nash made a mistake coming out of the final chicane.

Meanwhile current champion Jason Plato was having a tough time keeping up with the Turbo powered cars in 6th and in doing so over did it when on lap 11 suffering a puncture.

Neal at the front however kept it under control despite Jordan keeping him under pressure to take his second victory of the year. Shedden came third on the road this was until after the race where he got disqualified due to a technical infringement, which therefore promoted Nash to third.

Tom Chilton finished 4th ahead of Jackson who passed Rob Collard on lap 6 after he ran wide heading out of Coppice with the pair finishing 5th and 6th.

Tom Boardman finished 7th ahead of a battling trio of Paul O'Neill, Alex MacDowall and Jeff Smith.

On lap 15 heading into the chicane the two Chevrolet's from different teams of O'Neil and MacDowall were locked in a battle, which slowed the pair up and allowed Smith to take advantage to take MacDowall although he would re-pass him before the end of the race.

Once again at the start of race 2 Neal got a poor start allowing the two Vectra's of Jordan and Nash past straight away. As Jordan led the pack down the Crainer Kerbs drama happened towards the rear of the field.

Andrew Jordan, Pirtek Racing
Andrew Jordan, Pirtek Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

After their problems in race 1 both Plato and Shedden were starting at the back of the grid and as it all slowed up down the Crainer Kerbs Shedden clipped the back of Griffin which sent the Ford into Plato sending him off at high speed towards the banking sending the Chevrolet into a spectacular and frightening barrel roll, rolling several times. See separate story.

One of the main duals during the race was that between the two rival Ford team drivers of Chilton and Jackson. On lap 7 Jackson first got past Chilton heading into the Chicane before a couple of laps later locking up and straight inning it handing the place back to Chilton.

However the pair were at it again on lap 11 where this time it was Chilton who made the mistake heading down into the Old Hairpin allowing Jackson to get a run on him around the outside. With the pair neck and neck ending into the next corner McCleans contact was made with Jackson sliding out across the gravel and out of the top 10 although he would eventually finish in 10th.

Another driver in the thick of things was Collard. Collard lost out on lap 9 first being passed by Jackson into Redgate before sliding wide at the Old Hairpin allowing Chilton past as well. Collard was to be involved once again down at the Old Hairpin on lap 10 when it appeared he moved over on O'Neill who was on the outside leaving O'Neill with no where to go spinning into the gravel.

There was to be yet another incident at the Old Hairpin on lap 13 this time involving Collard's team mate Nick Foster when he was battling with Smith down the Crainer Kerbs. With the pair side by side unavoidable contact was made between the two with Foster coming off worse spinning scarily at high speed through the gravel getting slightly airborne on the inside of the corner before shooting across the circuit at the bottom corner ending up in the gravel on the outside.

Nick Foster, WSR
Nick Foster, WSR

Photo by: Pat Cranham

Smith had a lucky escape narrowly missing the spinning Foster as he came across the track although he lost a place to Gilham although his luck was to run out on lap 17 when he was spun around ending down the Dunlop straight losing all chance of a top 10 finish.

Smith's Pirtek Racing team mate was to have it all his own way at the front though and despite being kept busy by the other Vectra belonging to Nash was able to make immense following his double puncture at Brands to take his first victory of the season.

Neal finished third who kept a watching brief all race behind the two Vectra's with Chilton finishing in 4th ahead of Collard who took his best position so far this season and Shedden who recovered well from the back of the grid.

Next up was Tom Onslow-Cole who drove superbly to take a hugely popular 7th in his AmD Miltek Racing Golf to score the first ever BTCC points for the team in the car.

Onslow-Cole came under great pressure from MacDowall during the closing stages of the race but it was MacDowall to lose out across the line when he got a slow exit out of the final Chicane following the Golf allowing the Vectra of Gilham to power past the Chevrolet on the run up to the line to take 8th.

This didn't matter too much to MacDowall though after Andrew Jordan's Dad and team boss Mike Jordan picked out number 9 on the reverse grid meaning he would start race 3 from Pole.

Race 3 got underway and once again there was plenty of first lap carnage with three incidents happening before the first half of the lap. The first was off the startline and for the second time of the day involved Newsham when he ran onto the grass at the start trying to pass Smith sending the BMW into a spin collecting the helpless Tony Hughes as he rolled backwards across the circuit.

Gilham was next to have an incident when from second on the grid he got sideways at the first corner clipping the BMW of Collard as he did so which sent the Vectra the other way onto the grass with Shedden having to take avoiding action across the gravel damaging his front splitter eventually forcing him to retire on lap 9.

The final incident happened at the Old Hairpin when Jackson and Nash made contact which in turn sent Nash into Chilton and as Chilton spun he hit the unlucky Onslow-Cole who had briefly lead away from the line. Chilton ended up in the gravel with the contact also breaking the Golf's rear suspension, Collard also ran wide as a result from second also with damage due to the contact with Gilham for which he had to pit from at the end of the lap while Nash also had to run wide and lost a handful of places.

Mat Jackson, Airwaves Racing
Mat Jackson, Airwaves Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

In all the mayhem Jackson got promoted to second with Neate being promoted inside the top 5 with George and Chris James also ending up inside the top 10. As a result of Chilton's car being stuck in the gravel the safety car was brought out disappearing MacDowall's healthy lead he built up as a result of all the carnage. After the Safety car came in it took less than a lap for Jackson to pass MacDowall for the lead, which he never was to lose. Neal was in third but was to slip back all race due to a damaged splitter like Shedden first losing out to Jordan and then Nash.

In all the mayhem Jackson got promoted to second with Neate being promoted inside the top 5 with George and Chris James also ending up inside the top 10. As a result of Chilton's car being stuck in the gravel the safety car was brought out disappearing MacDowall's healthy lead he built up as a result of all the carnage. After the Safety car came in it took less than a lap for Jackson to pass MacDowall for the lead, which he never was to lose. Neal was in third but was to slip back all race due to a damaged splitter like Shedden first losing out to Jordan and then Nash.

Nash had earlier been involved in an incident with Neate going into the first corner, which spun the Ford across the gravel with Neate losing just one place to Boardman.

The two Vectra's were also quick to get past MacDowall. First Jordan did on lap 10 after MacDowall slid out of the Old Hairpin passing him before the next corner McCleans with Nash passing him for third just a couple of laps later down into the chicane with MacDowall eventually having to settle for 4th.

Smith was having a real yo-yo of a race but no doubt was having a great time battling with double Champions Neal and Plato. He had earlier got past Neal before running wide and losing a few places but once again got past the struggling Honda a few laps later. Gilham was also battling hard with the pair first having a barging match with Plato through the chicane and then like Smith passing Neal on lap 16 into the Chicane.

Boardman looked on course for at last a top 5 finish until lap 17 when he stopped on track and was narrowly avoided by Neal and Plato with Plato being able to take advantage and get past his arch rival both in less than perfect cars with Plato's roof still being battered following his earlier roll although his team worked more than miracles to get the car out just two hours after his earlier crash.

With Boardman gone this promoted Neate to 5th where he looked on course to take his best ever BTCC finish however Smith had other ideas. He dived down the inside of the Global Ford Focus coming out of the first corner but suffered a wiggle going through the ultra fast Crainer Kerbs. Neate sensed his chance to get the place back coming out of the Old Hairpin but this also allowed Gilham to draw side by side with the Ford through the fast left kink where contact was made sending Neate at High speed into the barrier with Gilham braking his right rear suspension.

Andy Neate, Team Aon
Andy Neate, Team Aon

Photo by: Pat Cranham

This meant Smith had a clear run to take a great 5th place finish also promoting Plato to 6th rewarding his whole team after their miracles to get on the grid where they even were able to rely on 3 extra mechanics who were present at the circuit just watching the event. Neal limped round to 7th ahead of O'Neill who earlier in the race took revenge on Collard for their contact in race 2 spinning around the BMW at the first corner. Also benefiting were Griffin and Foster who finished in 9th and 10th both scoring their fist points in the Championship.

Once again over the day the clerk of the course was more than busy penalising a number of drivers throughout the weekend. Race 1 saw Neate punished for his first corner clash with Gilham and received two points on his competition licence. Chilton was punished in race 2 for his contact with Jackson as was Shedden for his part in Plato's Spectacular roll with both receiving 2 points. While in race 3 Newsham was given a

  1. 500 fine and received 3 points by causing an avoidable collision off the start line with Nash also receiving 2 penalty points himself also during race 3.

This however was the only downside of the day for Nash who now leads the championship a race after his 3 podium finishes at Donington. Despite being slightly disappointed not yet to win a race a delighted but surprised Nash said after leaving Donington with the early championship lead, "It feels unreal to be leading. Last year we really struggled but have transformed the car this year with the new turbo engine. I'm actually now starting to get disappointed by just being on the podium - I really want that first win."

Nash also currently leads the Independent drivers championship with Triple 8 leading the Independent teams trophy.

After his disappointment at Brands where he twice had to pit with a puncture Jordan propelled himself into the championship fight with a win and two-second place finishes. Jordan who was by far leading points taker at Donington said, "We've really got our car singing now after experimenting with the turbo engine last season and we're still improving. I genuinely believe we can now go on from here and mount a serious championship challenge."

Jason Plato, Silverline Chevrolet Donington barrel roll
Jason Plato, Silverline Chevrolet Donington barrel roll

Photo by: Pat Cranham

However final word must go to Plato following his astonishing roll and the fact that he was still able to race on in the final race of the day. Plato admitted that he got very emotional by the work put in by his team and feels that there is no better team in the world and said, "It was amazing. It looked an impossible task and the car looked like a Transformer. But the lads were just amazing - you could see the passion in everybody. They're the best racing team in the world, forget F1. That was teamwork. I had tears in my eyes, they had tears in their eyes and to see their commitment makes up for all the bad weekends we'll ever have. There was real emotion out there today."

The championship now rolls onto Thruxton in Hampshire, the fastest circuit in the country, which will take place in just two weeks time for rounds 7,8 and 9. For full build up to the weekend and for all BTCC news prior to the event please keep checking onto Motorsport.com for all your BTCC information.

Donington Park: Full Results and Championship Standings