JACKSON & PLATO SHARE WINS AT SILVERSTONE AS TURKINGTON RETAINS SLENDER CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Chevrolet drivers Mat Jackson and Jason Plato shared the wins in today's drama-filled HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire. Thanks to three strong points finishes, though, it is still Northern Ireland's Colin Turkington who leads the Drivers' standings by the slightly increased margin of 11 points from Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi as the championship stays in Northamptonshire for its penultimate round at the Rockingham circuit on Sunday 20 September.
The day's first race produced an historic result - the first Chevrolet 1-2-3 finish in the BTCC (pictured above) since the final round of the 1975 season - as Jackson led Racing Silverline team-mate Plato and RML's young charge James Nash across the line.
Oxford-based Plato then won a rain-affected race two, but only just from Giovanardi's rapidly closing VX Racing Vauxhall Vectra with Jackson in third. Jackson then took a hard-fought victory in race three by fending off the Airwaves BMW of Robert Collard in a thrilling finish. It was the second meeting in a row that Jackson had finished all three races on the podium. His win also meant the Racing Silverline team had taken victory in all three races.
Behind, Turkington finished race three in third and, with Team RAC BMW team-mate Stephen Jelley also muscling past Giovanardi to finish fourth, it is a result that could prove crucial. Indeed, it means the Ulsterman keeps hold of the championship lead that he has held since the season's fifth round. Only Rockingham and Brands Hatch, Kent (Sunday 4 October) now stand in the way of what would be a first BTCC Drivers' title for Turkington.
Many eyes today were of course on former Formula 1 star Johnny Herbert, making his debut in the BTCC in Team Dynamics' Honda Civic. Herbert scored points with an eighth place finish in race two and in race three was running as high as fourth until forced to retire after being knocked off the track by Plato.
But for Warwickshire's Jackson it was a dream day that has elevated him to fifth in the standings - he was a lowly 11th just two rounds ago - and to within striking distance of Matt Neal's fourth place. Jackson said: "These are fantastic results made even sweeter because it's the second successive race weekend I've had three podiums on the trot. The Chevrolet has been exceptional here and it was down to me to make the most of it. I'm so happy, although Collard really made me work for it in the last few laps of race three."
Turkington, aged 27 from Portadown, added: "That third place in race three was a really important result. I briefly had Fabrizio attacking me before Stephen came and got involved. He did me a real favour getting between us as it helped me stick a few more points on Fabrizio. I still prefer to be the man in front, but I suspect these final two rounds we're going into, at Rockingham and Brands Hatch, are going to become very intense."
Superstar Giovanardi, aiming for what would be an historic third consecutive Drivers' title having lifted the crown in both 2007 and 2008, said: "I'm really enjoying this fight with Colin. I thought after race two today I was closing up on him some more but then in race three he finds something else with his team-mate! But I had the same help from my team-mates in the previous round so it's all OK. It's how it works at this stage of the season. Rockingham and Brands Hatch... I think our cars will be quite even so it's going to be a very close."
Elsewhere, Vauxhall/VX Racing has provisionally won the Manufacturers/Constructors crown while VXR remains comfortably on course for a seventh outright Teams' trophy. Turkington and his Team RAC squad continue to lead the Independent Drivers' and Teams' points tables, although both have had their advantages trimmed slightly by Plato and Racing Silverline respectively.