NEAL & PLATO TIED AT THE TOP AS CHILTON, ONSLOW-COLE & JACKSON WIN AT BRANDS HATCH Tom Chilton, Tom Onslow-Cole and Mat Jackson shared the wins in today's three highly unpredictable Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races held in wet...
NEAL & PLATO TIED AT THE TOP AS CHILTON, ONSLOW-COLE & JACKSON WIN AT BRANDS HATCH
Tom Chilton, Tom Onslow-Cole and Mat Jackson shared the wins in today's three highly unpredictable Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races held in wet conditions at the world-famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. However, despite some awful luck on the day, it is arch rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato who leave the Kent venue now jointly locked in the championship lead as the title race moves on to the spectacular Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire on Sunday 6 June.
Chilton, in his LPG-turbo Team Aon Ford Focus, dominated the day's first race from pole position, leading all the way to win by more than five seconds from Neal's Honda Racing Team team-mate Gordon Shedden. Significantly, it marked the first ever win in the BTCC for LPG technology and the first in the series for the Ford name since 2000. Chilton then went on to cross the line first in race two, but his car later failed a technical check and he was disqualified leaving Onslow-Cole, who'd taken second, to inherit the victory. Seeing as Onslow-Cole had finished just 0.009s ahead of Shedden, this became the closest winning margin ever recorded in the BTCC.
In race three it was the turn of Jackson to win as a gamble to fit treaded wet weather tyres all round on his Airwaves BMW on a damp but drying track paid off. It was a dream result for his team, based locally to Brands, but he was fortunate - he had to drive the final two laps with a slow puncture and Neal, up from 13th on the grid, so very nearly caught him on the line.
Neal had finished the day's first race in fifth spot in his Honda Civic but retired from the second. Plato, though, had a nightmare event - back in eighth in race one, his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze then retired from both the second and third races.
Worcestershire driver Neal said: "I'm delighted - I never expected to be leading the championship so early in the season. It's a shame our car stopped in race two and we couldn't capitalise further when Jason had also retired but I can't complain too much - I suppose I could have had a day like his."
Oxford-based Plato had little to say, commenting: "I've just had a very bad day. That's it. There is nothing more to say." At least Plato's young team-mate, 19-year-old Alex MacDowall, had something to cheer with his first podium result with a third in race two.
To date, the season's opening nine races have produced seven different winners and just 17 points now cover the top six heading to Oulton where Paul O'Neill will be eager to build on his fourth place in the standings in front of his home crowd. The Widnes driver, racing for the Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport team was sixth and then fourth in today's first and second races to briefly hold second in the standings ahead of Neal before later suffering a non-finish in race three.
However, he maintains the lead in the Independent drivers' championship, albeit jointly with Kane who has drawn level on points. Meanwhile, Neal's and Shedden's combined efforts have taken Honda/Dynamics past Chevrolet/RML into the lead of the Manufacturer/Constructor standings with Arena/Ford now a very close third. The Honda Racing Team has also moved to within two points of Airwaves BMW at the top of the HiQ Teams' table. Airwaves, though, has been able to stretch its lead slightly over nearest challenger Sunshine.co.uk in the battle for Independent teams' honours.