Jason Plato needed to score points against the Honda top teams but the final blaze set him back a bit.
MG KX Momentum’s Jason Plato was on fire at Oulton Park as he claimed victory in the first two races of this weekend’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship before he literally caught fire early on in race 3.
Andrew Jordan claimed victory in the final race of the day from his own Pirtek team mate. Jordan inherited the lead after Jeff Smith had been on course to take his maiden series win. Smith spun his Honda with just a few laps remaining dropping him down the field before spinning again leaving him a lap down.
Plato had taken a dominant pole the day before completing just 4 laps in the process and took two unchallenged lights to flag victories in the first two races of the day to lead the championship going into race 3. However disaster stroke on just lap 4 when his MG 6 caught fire bringing an early end to what had been a superb day for the double champion and in doing so handed the lead back over to Matt Neal who managed a pair of 4th’s and 6th during the day.
Despite the disappointment of race 3 Plato who now has equalled the tally for the most amount of wins around Oulton Park tying on 9 with Alain Menu. Plato admitted it had been a fantastic day saying, “I’ve been on fire – literally! It has been a fantastic weekend. What happened in the final race was just one of those things. The most important thing for me is that we’ve got the performance and we’ve sent a shockwave down the pit lane. There’s a long way to go but we’ve put on a pretty dominant display here, which bodes well for Croft and beyond.”
MG started the day with a clean-sweep in race 1 with Plato’s younger team mate Sam Tordoff making it an MG 1-2 to claim the team’s first lock out at the front of the field as Tordoff in his first full season of BTCC racing claimed his best BTCC finish to date. The former Clio and Porsche racer then looked on course to make it a double podium in race 2 before losing late on in the race as his soft tyres went away before making contact with another competitor, meant that he could only limp round to take 20th although Tordoff did produce a stunning recovery drive in race 3 to finish 7th after starting from his finishing position from race 2.
Second in the points standings following his 3rd race victory is Jordan. The day however could have started differently in race 1, after contact from the rear resulted in smoke/oil pouring from the back of the car for a large part of the race. Luckily for Jordan he was able to cross the line in 4th and take the Independent honours before eventually conking out in the pits with smoke coming from the engine.
Thankfully for Pirtek Racing the problem wasn’t severe and the engine didn’t require changing and Jordan was back out in race 2 to claim 5th. Speaking after race 3 Jordan admitted he felt sorry for his team mate but he was delighted with how his day finished and said, “If you’d asked me how my day was going after race two I’d have been a lot less happy than I am now. To pull that result off has made my weekend – you can never be sure what’s going to happen in race three and it was only once I got up into fourth that I thought I could actually win it. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get a one-two for the team – there were no team orders, Jeff (Smith) just lost the rear going into the chicane and didn’t quite manage to save it. Consistency is key for me this year and while I didn’t get great results in the first two races, we scored big in the last one while Shedden and Plato didn’t finish, so that makes it an even better result.”
Reigning BTCC champion Gordon Shedden took a pair of podiums with 3rd in race 1 and 2nd in race 2 but had to pit after having to avoid another competitor in race 3 dropping him out of the points meaning he still sits in 4th in the current points trailing team mate Neal by 31 points.
Another double podium finisher was Colin Turkington in his eBay Motors BMW 125i M Sport. Although Turkington took victory in race 3 at Donington this was the best weekend performance from the 2009 Champion since his series return to take 3rd in race 2 and 2nd in race 3. Speaking after the weekend Turkington said he was pleased with how the car was developing but admitted there was still plenty to come and said, “That’s the first podium (race two) that we’ve had on raw pace. We didn’t have any luck or a reverse grid to be there so we’re definitely moving forward, but we have to keep our feet on the ground. We’ve still got more performance to find in the car and it’s not there yet. I didn’t expect two podiums, especially with the speed of the Hondas and the MGs, so to take those results when they're in the kind of form they are is absolutely fantastic.”
The final person to make the podium during the day was Adam Morgan in race 3 driving his family run Cicely Racing Toyota Avensis. This was the first time that the former Ginetta supercup champion had stepped on the podium and was just reward for him following his superb start to the season after a disappointing 2012. After an overjoyed Morgan said, “It’s absolutely amazing to get that result, not just for myself but for my team, my family and all the sponsors that support me. The race was pretty hectic – I didn’t get a second to catch my breath, but I just kept pushing and to get my first BTCC podium at my home circuit – it’s brilliant. The car felt really really good, and now I've got one, I'll be pushing harder than ever to get up there again.”
Another team worthy of a mention were the two Wix Racing Audi’s who made it two Audi’s in the top 6 for the first time since 1997 in race 3. Team boss Rob Austin finished in 5th after he had lead for the early part of the race with team mate Will Bratt claiming his best ever BTCC finish in 6th.
Not everyone however had a weekend to remember with Thruxton star Tom Onslow-Cole twice spinning from good positions inside the top 10. First in race 1 when it appeared he got squeezed of onto the grass by Rob Collard, who also got turned round in race 2, running the PPCGB.com/Kraftwerk VW Passat wide and back into the path of the eBay Motors BMW of Collard sending Onslow-Cole into a high speed spin while in race 3 he also span late on whilst coming under a great deal of pressure and eventually finished a lap down.
Other drivers not able to get the results they wanted included Dave Newsham in the Speedworks Toyota Avensis who couldn’t match his great 4th in qualifying after he dropped down the field race 1 after getting involved in the Jordan contact to claim 8th and in race 3 he had a high speed spin left him in 14th. While fellow Avensis driver Frank Wrathall prepared by Dynojet continued with mechanical issues in race 1 after qualifying 6th meaning 9th was the best he could manage.
Another team who continued to struggle was Airwaves Racing with Aron Smith needing an engine in his Ford Focus after retiring from race 1 with team mate Mat Jackson managing a best of 7th in race 1 but had trouble in the following two races after contact with Tordoff in race 2 before getting into further trouble in race 3 finishing last and a lap down.
Meanwhile in the Jack Sears Trophy for the older S2000 cars Lea Wood is now in the lead after taking a double victory in his Wheel Heaven/Houseman Vauxhall Vectra. Wood inherited the race 1 win after the Addison Lee Motorbase Ford Focus of Liam Griffin got past him on the last lap but in doing so made contact with the Vectra resulting in a 1 second time penalty to reverse the places.
However Griffin did have the last laugh in race 3 when he won after Wood who looked on course to take the hat trick suffered broken rear suspension meaning Griffin closes the gap to one win behind.
In the other championship’s it is all looking very Honda with Honda/Dynamics leading both the teams and Manufacturers/Constructors championships with Jordan and Pirtek Racing leading both drivers and teams Independent standing in their Honda Civic.