Jason Plato, with two wins, and Mat Jackson shared the victories in three astonishing Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races in front of a mammoth 30,000 crowd at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire today.
Ultimately four drivers – Gordon Shedden, Plato, Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan – will go into the 2012 season’s final three races, on Brands Hatch’s legendary Grand Prix circuit in a fortnight (20/21 October), with a chance of being crowned Champion of Britain’s premier motor racing series.
Finishing second and third were Inverness’s Dave Newsham in his Team ES Racing.com Vauxhall Vectra and, with his first podium result, Jackson’s team-mate Aron Smith from Dublin. Fife’s Shedden took seventh in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Honda Civic but Worcestershire team-mate Neal and Lichfield’s Jordan, in his Pirtek Racing Civic, both retired.
Warwickshire's Jackson then won race two ahead of Hook’s Robert Collard (eBay Motors BMW) and Newsham with a quite incredible drive from 17th on the grid, this time after Plato retired from the lead.
Jackson also set a new race lap record as he notched up the first victory for his squad’s NGTC-spec Focus. Shedden was again seventh with Jordan ninth while Neal suffered another retirement when his car spectacularly caught fire.
It was then Plato’s turn to wow the crowds as he came through from 20th to win race three ahead of Jackson and Collard. Shedden was sixth and Jordan seventh but, almost unbelievably, reigning Champion Neal retired again, this time after being forced off the track into a barrier.
As a result, Shedden still leads the table by 15 points from Plato who has moved past Neal into second overall. Neal is 31 behind Shedden and Jordan 61 adrift with a possible maximum of 67 still available from ‘Finals Day’.
An ecstatic Plato commented: “Despite the retirement in race two this is still one of the best days in my BTCC career. We’ve made more progress with our MG6 – in fact it’s a rocketship – and our tails are well and truly in the air.
For MG to go into the final round with a chance of lifting the title in its first year back in the championship is fantastic and I really believe we’ve got the Honda boys worried.”
Shedden, from Dalgety Bay and who is aiming to become Scotland's first BTCC Champion since John Cleland in 1995, said: “We knew this was going to be our bogey circuit so today was about picking up what crumbs we could – I don’t think we could have wrung any more out of the car.
Neal added: “Today has been a shocker but I’m not out of it yet – there are still a lot of points to be won at Brands and I’ll be going there with all guns blazing.
Jason’s MG will be strong there and our main objective is to get a Honda over the line in first. Gordon is obviously better placed to do that so is the priority…”
Jordan will also go to Brands still with a healthy lead in the Independent Drivers Championship, although can still be caught by Collard, Jackson and eBay Motors’ Tom Onslow-Cole. He admitted: “Let’s be realistic.
There’s no way the outright championship is possible so my focus will be to stay ahead of my Independent rivals. Rob has effectively halved the gap to 28 points but there are only 60 left at Brands and our car will be much stronger there.”
Jackson was delighted with his results today which marked his return to the podium since Thruxton in April. “A win from 17th, a second and a new lap record in a car that is still only two months old and it could have been two wins… I couldn’t be happier for everyone in my team,” he said.
Elsewhere Honda/Dynamics is all but assured the coveted Manufacturers/Constructors title. Similarly the Honda Yuasa Racing Team is a red hot favourite to retain the outright HiQ Teams Championship although can still be caught by eBay Motors.
But it will be a three-way fight for the Independent Teams Trophy at Brands between new leader eBay Motors, Pirtek Racing and Redstone Racing – just ten points cover the trio with a potential 60 up for grabs in the finale.
Meanwhile a number of drivers were punished today by BTCC officials for on-track indiscretions. Race 1: Andy Neate, fined £500 and three penalty points on his competition licence for an incident with Andrew Jordan; Tony Gilham, official reprimand and two penalty points for an incident during a safety car period; Lea Wood, fined £500 and three penalty points for an incident with Liam Griffin.
Race 3: Lea Wood, fined £500 and three penalty points for an incident with Matt Neal; Rob Austin, excluded from the results and four penalty points for an incident with Daniel Welch; Frank Wrathall, fined £500 and three penalty points for an incident with Dave Newsham; Andrew Jordan, received a verbal warning for making contact with another car.
Picture caption: Jason Plato leads the BTCC grid away at Silverstone. Click here for a copyright-free hi-res version.
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