THREE OUT OF THREE FOR THE ALL-CONQUERING RACING SILVERLINE TEAM
A hugely rewarding visit to the Silverstone track for the Racing Silverline team in this weekend's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship round saw the team come away with three race wins and a series of achievements to celebrate.
Taking his first pole of the year ahead of yesterday's first round, Mat was fired up and ready to go in what would become the team's most triumphant weekend this year. As the lights went out for race one, Mat was unable to fend off the lunging Airwaves BMW of Rob Collard despite making a clean start. The Chevrolet-Lacetti driver found himself slipping back to 2nd ahead of team mate, Jason Plato, but an error from Collard, in which he ran wide at Becketts, allowed Mat to seize the opportunity to retake the lead, although not without challenge. Racing side-by-side into Brooklands with the recovering BMW, Mat held momentum and won the battle for the lead. He maintained position from there, sprinting off to the flag.
Jason held position from the start, fending off the RML-entered car of James Nash and Team RAC's Colin Turkington. As the early laps unfolded, Jason resisted the ever-ambitious presence of Nash and as the lap 5 safety car peeled into the pits by the end of the ninth lap, Jason had reduced the gap to Collard. Nash too had closed in on the action and challenging Jason out of Becketts in the lighter Lacetti, found himself coming under increasing pressure from Turkington.
Racing side-by-side out of Woodcote, Jason managed to charge ahead of Collard by the 14th lap as they ran into Copse, taking 2nd place.
A second safety car stint during the closing stages bunched the pack and Mat's lead of 2.179s over second-placed man, Jason, was all but gone. Having looked set to challenge Mat for the lead by lap 21, Jason ran wide after brushing the oil on track a lap later. He regained second place and held off from Nash to the finish line.
Describing his race one win, Mat said, "It's mega! A fantastic result for the team and everybody involved. To win it that way was great, we were controlling the pace from Jason and a Chevrolet 1-2-3 from the first race is just awesome. We've definitely got the pace!"
Jason added, "It was good a race, I'm pleased with that, especially with the ballast I'm carrying. Mat was driving incredibly well and there's 27kgs difference between us in his favour. But not taking anything away from him, he's a fast lad. We're making great progress; we really understand the car and now have it working brilliantly on Dunlop tyres. And what's more, we now feel really comfortable with the kit; the car feels part of me now. It's a good package we've got."
As race two got underway, Mat made a perfect start from pole despite his Lacetti carrying the maximum success ballast of 45kgs. Streaking ahead
of the pack on a damp track, Mat already held an impressive gap of 1.450s over Jason, but it wasn't to last. Jason had not only caught his team mate by lap 7, but had robbed Mat of the lead following a successful duel in which the Racing Silverline duo raced parallel into Woodcote. Jason made his move at Copse but not to be outclassed, Mat came back at him under braking and closed back in.
As earlier drizzle fell heavier on track, the tricky conditions got the better of some, but not Racing Silverline. Running wide on the eighteenth lap, Mat tirelessly tried to keep off the threatening Vauxhall of Fabrizio Giovanardi but he would concede a place to the Italian, slipping to 3rd position, where he would finish the race. Right on form and well acquainted with the podium, Mat savoured the familiar champagne celebration for the second time.
Now released, Giovanardi sited Jason and closed the gap from just over two seconds to 1.829s over a couple of laps, but it wasn't enough to rattle the Lacetti driver, and Jason took a well deserved first place finish in his 299th BTCC race start, his third of the year for the team and 49th BTCC career win.
Jason commented, "I got a good start and although Mat's was better, I hand to defend into turn one. I knew if I kept my head down I could reel Mat in a bit. But then I was fighting with Fabrizio. In these gritty conditions, the Vauxhall for some reason just works. I really enjoy racing with him, he's a class act.
Our car is going really, really well this weekend. It certainly appears to be the class of the field at the moment. In summary, it's been an excellent day and an excellent season considering how it started at the beginning of the year, being a late deal."
With the grid lottery placing Mat 7th and Jason 9th on a drying track for race three, the Racing Silverline team had yet more points in their sight. As the lights went out, a storming start from Mat propelled him from 7th off the grid into 4th position by the end of the first lap, taking Giovanardi and Herbert from the outside. Yet with more still to come from the 28-year old, Mat forged his way past Airwaves BMW driver Jonathan Adam exiting Luffield on lap two, picking up third place along the way. Revelling in the pace of the Lacetti, Mat's next target became Turkington but he found it less than challenging as he ran clean passed the orange BMW and managed an impressive gap of 0.929s with an additional 27kgs ballast.
Jason, too, had a great start, launching his Lacetti from a midfield 9th position into 7th. Having cleared Team RAC's Stephen Jelley, Jason charged on to the squabbling duo of Jonny Herbert, making his BTCC debut, and Giovanardi. Contact between Jason and Jonny would result in the former F1 star, Herbert, spinning off track. Jason grabbed 6th but sustained damage to the car in the form of a bent track rod. This, along with 45kgs of ballast meant Jason was fighting with the Lacetti as he lost some performance. He finished his 300th race in 7th place.
Setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 12 in the sister Lacetti, Mat was nose to tail with Collard and made his move to snatch the lead into Brooklands. With his comfortable gap of 1.019s over second-placed Collard shortened to just 0.254s by the nineteenth lap, Mat fought hard to the flag, driving defensively and making the Lacetti as wide as possible. Unable to respond, Collard couldn't find a way past and the pair crossed the line nose-to-tail, with Mat taking his second win of the weekend and an enviable tally of six back-to-back podiums over the past six rounds.
After the race, Mat enthused, "It's been a great weekend for myself and for all at Racing Silverline. The car is good and we need to keep it going, let's hope it is as good at Rockingham."
Commenting on the late lap pressure from Collard, Mat added, "He wasn't going to have my win off me, I made my mind up on that one! I shot myself in the foot a bit. I started backing off because I thought we'd have a safety car, but then Rob was pretty quick and stuck with us all the way, so there were a few hairy moments! It's a quick car and the RML guys have done a fantastic job. The car has been around the world - excuse the pun - and has had a lot of development. This is a fantastic result."
A trio of podiums and two race wins has elevated Mat from 7th in the championship standings to 5th with 137 points, just 16 shy from 4th placed Matt Neal.
Jason still holds 3rd with 190 points, 31 short from 2nd placed Fabrizio Giovanardi and Racing Silverline currently sit 3rd in the Teams' championship on 267 points.