By Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent: Plato takes his 70th career victory in the British Touring Car Championship series.
After a difficult weekend Jason Plato has fought back to win an action packed race 3 of the day during round 15 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and, in doing so, takes his 70th career victory in the series.
It was eBay Motors Nick Foster who started on pole for the reverse grid and he led into the first corner from his team mate Rob Collard in the second of three eBay Motors BMW’s, although original second place man Andy Neate in the MG quickly retook him on the opening lap. Further down the field Tony Gilham span his Team HARD Honda Civic and brought out the safety car.
Foster led until lap 5 when Neate dived down the inside of him at Tower also allowing Collard through. With Foster out wide a number of other cars got down the inside before he slid wider after making side on contact with the third eBay Motors BMW of Tom Onslow-Cole, which let the second MG KX Momentum MG6 through of Jason Plato.
On lap 6 the safety car was forced to come out again after a huge, and rather scary, incident between the Redstone Racing Ford Focus and Binz Racing Vauxhall Vectra of Liam Griffin and Lea Wood that resulted in the Focus of Griffin catching fire.
After a lengthy safety car period the racing got under way on lap 12 and instantly Plato got past the Dynojet Toyota Avensis of Frank Wrathall, before the Toyota driver got caught out on the oil from the previous crash at Tower running wide and losing a number of places. Then a lap later Collard did the same from 2nd and allowed Plato to take the spot.
This meant it was an MG 1-2 at the front with Neate driving brilliantly in the lead for the first time in his BTCC career. Although eventually Neate was to lose out to Plato after he got past his team mate at Tower.
Following this it all went downhill for Neate as he was passed by Onslow-Cole at the hairpin and almost let the Honda Yuasa Racing Civic of Matt Neal past, who was coming through from 9th. Although instead of gaining a place Neal lost the place to Andrew Jordan in an identical Honda Civic as cars were running side by side heading through the first few corners.
Jordan then quickly took 3rd from Neate a lap later at Tower before Neal robustly also took the place from Neate a lap later, as he half spun the MG around off the circuit and dropped the luckless Neate to 9th.
Behind Neal in 5th finished Collard who had been in the thick of things all race and he finished ahead of the second Honda Yuasa Racing Civic belonging to previous race winner Gordon Shedden, who now trails his team mate at the half way stage by just 1 point.
Rob Austin couldn’t manage another podium in his own prepared Audi A4 as he did in the previous race but never the less can be delighted with his day’s work as he scored more good points for 7th. Next up were the two men who started on the front row of the grid, following their battles, with Foster ahead of Neate.
After visiting the farmer’s fields in race 2, Dan Welch finished 10th in his Welch Motorsport Proton ahead of Jeff Smith for Pirtek Racing and Mat Jackson in the sole remaining Redstone Ford Focus, following his engine change after race 1.
At last, having something to smile about was Paul O’Neill, who came home 13th during his one off appearance for Speedworks, as he led home his team mate in the second Speedworks Toyota Avensis Adam Morgan who, like O’Neill, had a weekend to forget after showing great pace during Free Practice on Saturday. The final point went to yet another Toyota Avensis this time belonging to Wrathall following his incidents after running as high as 3rd.
However after a difficult weekend, which has seen the Hondas pull away from him, Plato finally had something to cheer about and slightly narrows the gap to the Hondas to 29 points. Plato was very happy to take only his second win of the year and now admits the season starts at Snetterton after the break although the team must limit their expectations and said, “Motorsport has a funny way of evening itself out, now hopefully that’s our stormy period over. My season will get back on track at Snetterton. We have a big development period before Snetterton with two days testing in July as well as some big development parts.
“I think we are still punching above our weight as we have only had half a day’s testing on the car; we still don’t know the car. We’re doing very well but despite the wins and the poles we must limit our expectations and over the summer let the engineers work their magic and then come out and wallop! We are doing very well even though we still have some issues and I believe there is still a second in the car,” added Plato.
Behind him were two other drivers to get onto the podium for the first time of the day. In second was Onslow-Cole and he was pleased to get his best finish so far this season after a hard day and said, “It was a difficult day with the hit in the morning but good to come back to the podium, with us moving in the right direction after 3rd at Oulton and now an extra step up. We managed to nurse the car through from some little bumps but the race has worked out well.”
After a pair of 4th places, Jordan was also pleased to at last make the podium and said, “Had our backs up against the wall a bit today. It was hard racing but I didn’t see any silly moves following Oulton. We have some testing booked in before Snetterton and although podiums are good, if we stand any chance of moving further up we need more race wins.”
Jordan does have something to smile about as he now heads into the long summer break before Snetterton, holding a 7 point lead in the Independents trophy; while Honda Racing have a massive lead in both the Manufactures/constructors championship and the HiQ teams trophy.