WINS FOR ONSLOW-COLE, PLATO & NEAL AT OULTON PARK Tom Onslow-Cole, Jason Plato and Matt Neal shared the wins in today's three action-packed Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in ...
WINS FOR ONSLOW-COLE, PLATO & NEAL AT OULTON PARK
Tom Onslow-Cole, Jason Plato and Matt Neal shared the wins in today's three action-packed Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire. Neal's win in race three means he leaves with a slender championship lead as the BTCC title race now heads to the daunting Croft circuit in North Yorkshire on Sunday 20 June.
In front of a huge crowd that included Olympic cycling and World gymnastics gold medallists Ed Clancy and Beth Tweddle, Onslow-Cole (pictured leading above) led race one all the way from pole position in his LPG-powered Team Aon Ford Focus, standing up to intense pressure from Neal's Honda Racing Team team-mate Gordon Shedden and WSR BMW driver Robert Collard. Behind, Neal and Plato who'd gone into today tied for the series lead, experienced varying fortunes. While lying fourth, Plato was knocked off the track and down to tenth so instead it was Neal, who finished eighth, who gained an early upper hand.
Plato then came through from tenth on the grid to win race two, his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze crossing the line with heavy front-end damage after a robust move on early leader Onslow-Cole. Neal also passed Onslow-Cole to take second but it was not enough to stop Plato from now moving ahead in the standings.
But that was to change around again in race three. Home hero, Preston's Tom Boardman, led for much of the race until Neal overtook him in the closing laps for his third win of 2010. With Plato finishing back in sixth, Neal is therefore left with a small eight-point advantage at the top of the table.
Worcestershire's Neal, chasing his third BTCC title, said: "I thought after race one I was going to leave here back in sixth in the points - it wasn't such a good race for me and it is so close at the top. But we made some changes to the car and it came alive in races two and three. It's nice to have eked out a bit of a lead but it's a slender margin and also very early days. Croft in two weeks is going to be very tough again."
Oxford-based Plato commented: "A bit of a topsy-turvy day. Getting punted off in race one was a bit of a stinker but the race two win showed we've made more progress with our car and full credit to my team who'd done a lot of repairs to it after race one. The gap to Matt is nothing at this stage. We're not even half way through the season and it's not just Matt who's a rival - plenty of other teams and drivers are in the hunt and, like he says, Croft is going to be very hard-fought."
Notably, fifth place in race three for Onslow-Cole meant he was the day's highest points-scorer and as a result he was presented with the Cliff Johnson Trophy - in memory of much-loved Boulevard Team Racing principal Cliff Johnson who passed away last week. Presenting the trophy on the podium was Cliff's son Martin, himself a hugely popular racer in the BTCC.
Finishing that race in second was Airwaves BMW's Steven Kane - a result that keeps him ahead of Onslow-Cole in third place in the championship - while taking third, his first podium result of 2010, was James Nash in his Triple Eight Race Engineering Vauxhall Vectra.
Elsewhere, Honda/Dynamics has maintained its lead in the Manufacturer/Constructor championship, as Arena/Ford moves ahead of Chevrolet/RML into second. Airwaves BMW has increased its lead in both the HiQ Teams and Independent Teams standings and its pairing of Kane and Mat Jackson are also now 1-2 in the Independent Drivers table after a tough day for Paul O'Neill, the Widnes driver hampered by mechanical problems on his Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed Honda in two of the three races in front of his home audience.