Plato tops first official BTCC test

Media day was the first and only chance for all teams to test together before the curtain raiser at Thruxton in less than two weeks. There were two 3-hour test session slots during the day for the teams to get to grips with their machinery.

Jason Plato leads Paul O'Neill .
Photo by Pat Cranham.

Jason Plato showed the rest of the field why he has to be favourite to take the title by clocking the fastest ever lap around the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in his Chevrolet Cruze. The day hadn't got off to a good start for Plato when he had a steering problem during the morning on track media activities that forced him to sit out the entire morning session.

Second quickest was Gordon Shedden who put in a stunning performance on his return to Team Dynamics for Honda Racing. This proved that the heavy development work over the winter on the Civic has now at last turned it into a championship contending car.

In third overall was Stephen Kane for Airwaves BMW who looked in great form on his return to the series, and originally set the pace during the morning session. Motorbase are yet another team who have done a lot of development over the winter break with the car looking exactly like the works BMW competing in the WTCC fresh with the same bonnet scoops.

Team Aon carried on their terrific pace from Brands at the end of last season and in the hands of Tom Chilton, their LPG powered Focus took a greatly encouraging 4th place. Chilton was just ahead of the second Honda Racing Civic of Matt Neal who had several trips through the Paddock Hill gravel.

Sixth fastest was yet another driver returning to an old team, Rob Collard.

Collard had previously raced an MG for WSR in 2005/06 and now returns to the team driving in an identical BMW he has raced for Motorbase for the past two seasons.

Alex McDowall was next up in seventh putting in an impressive display on his debut in the second Silverline Chevrolet. Tom Onslow-Cole, who was mainly concentrating on longer runs, was eighth in the second LPG powered Ford Focus.

Paul O'Neill leads John George.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

Fans favourite Paul O'Neill was ninth quickest, proving that the ageing Honda Integra can still be a force to be reckoned with particularly with Thruxton coming up, a place where the Integra has always excelled. Rounding out the top 10 was Andrew Jordan in the first TOCA turbo powered NGTC engine Vectra. The other identical powered Vectra of Dave Pinkney, fresh with his new pink and black livery, was back in twelve following, like so many other drivers, a trip across the Paddock Hill gravel.

In between the two Turbo powered Vectras was Mat Jackson making his return to a BMW with Airwaves. Jackson was mainly concentrating on longer runs and, like his teammate Kane, is believed to have been trying a variety of set ups.

Making his return to racing following his horrific crash 18 months ago was Andy Neate in the second WSR BMW who finished in 13th. Both himself and teammate Collard were showing off new sponsor HM plant logos on the front of their all white BMW's.

Putting in a good performance in 14th was Matt Hamilton in his TH Motorsport older generation Honda Civic. Despite being in 14th Hamilton was only less than a second off Plato's time, although he did cause the only red flag of the day when he went straight on at clearways gently hitting the tyre wall.

John George failed to arrive in time for the early morning media activities but arrived in time to finish in 15th for his new team sunshine.co.uk in the second Honda Integra. Next up was Tom Boardman, who was hampered throughout the day with a constant engine-mapping problem, in his flame spitting Special Tuning Seat Leon.

Martin Johnson.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

The ever-enthusiastic Martin Johnson was 17th in his now ancient 2001 Vauxhall Astra Coupe. He was ahead of newcomer Lea Woods in his family run Honda Integra.

It was a disastrous day for newcomers Forster Motorsport in a pair of ex Mat Jackson BMW's. With Martin Depper's car already sidelined after the cars power plant had failed in a test late last week at Croft, fellow driver Arthur Forster could only manage a dozen laps in the morning session before an oil leak sidelined him for the rest of the day.

The other car out on circuit was the stunning looking AmD Technik Racing VW golf of Shaun Hollamby. AmD continued their steep learning curve after working miracles just to get the car out on circuit after changing more or less every component on the car. The team first suffered a misfire before suffering gearbox troubles but the car did complete a number of laps late in the day although no transmitter was fitted to the car.


See also: Bumper 23-car grid for BTCC in 2010