WINS FOR NEAL & PLATO AT ROCKINGHAM AS BTCC HEADS TO BRANDS HATCH NEXT WEEKEND Arch rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato shared the wins in today's three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rounds at Rockingham. Neal won both races one and...
WINS FOR NEAL & PLATO AT ROCKINGHAM AS BTCC HEADS TO BRANDS HATCH NEXT WEEKEND
Arch rivals Matt Neal and Jason Plato shared the wins in today's three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship rounds at Rockingham. Neal won both races one and three in his Honda Racing Team Honda Civic but it is Plato, victorious in race two in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze, who leaves Northamptonshire leading the standings from Neal as the BTCC now heads to the world-famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent in just seven days time (Sunday 2 May) for its third round out of ten in 2010.
Neal, BTCC Champion in 2005 and 2006, was suitably overjoyed with his performances. Not only has he made up some of the ground he lost to Plato in Thruxton's opening round earlier this month, he's also achieved a double victory -- the last time he did that was almost four years ago to the day in April 2006.
And his day could not have started any better -- he won race one by the crushing margin of more than eight seconds, while team-mate Gordon Shedden followed him across the line in second to give the Honda Racing Team a dream 1-2 result.
"I am overjoyed," said the Worcestershire driver. "In one day I've just doubled my wins tally for the last two years! Race one was just perfect as we'd gone for slick tyres all-round on a damp but drying track -- I had no-one in my mirrors at the end of lap one and I needed no second invitation. The Civic again was terrific in race three and helped me make the break -- it was vital we capitalised in that one, with Jason starting further back on the reversed grid. Both our cars will go into qualifying and race one at Brands with a lot of success ballast so it'll be difficult doing this again, particularly as there are a lot of other very strong car-driver combinations out there."
Oxford-based Plato, hoping this year to add to his BTCC title of 2001, was satisfied with his days work but says his team needs to keep pushing development of its Cruze. Notably, his victory in race two was the 54th of his BTCC career and also the first for Chevrolet's Cruze model in the championship, although he only just managed it after a determined late charge from Robert Collard's WSR BMW.
Plato commented: "We've had a good day, but we need to sit down and do some more thinking to get just that bit more out of the car. The Cruze is still new to the BTCC so we're still finding out what makes it tick and the opposition today -- not just the Hondas but the Fords and BMWs -- have clearly demonstrated they are very strong. Still, we're enjoying a very good start to the season which is what we wanted and I had a great day on the Brands GP track last year with all three wins in one day. Whether I can do that again next weekend we'll see..."
Elsewhere, there were huge cheers in the Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Motorsport team as Paul O'Neill gave Marvin Humphries' squad a best-ever second place finish behind Neal in race three. Furthermore, leaving Rockingham, he has taken over the lead of the Independent Drivers' championship. Airwaves BMW driver Steven Kane is a happy man as well after third-place finishes in races two and three today have elevated him to third behind Plato and Neal in the outright title race.
Meanwhile, Chevrolet/RML retains its lead in the Manufacturer/Constructor table as does Airwaves BMW in the HiQ Teams' Championship, although it remains hotly pursued by both the Silverline Chevrolet and Honda Racing Team outfits. Airwaves has also taken over at the top of the Independent Teams' standings from Sunshine.co.uk.