Silverline Chevrolet secured its first podium of the season in the first round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Thruxton, courtesy of Jason Plato.
Starting from 5th on the grid in race one, Jason made an early pass on Jordan in the Vauxhall, taking 4th and defending fiercely to keep Onslow-Cole’s Aon Ford at bay as the pair raced door-to-door through the chicane. As lap times tumbled over the following laps, Jason reduced Giovanardi’s eight second gap to just three seconds, however with this notoriously challenging circuit throwing cars off at nearly every corner, tyre management proved key to finishing the race and securing vital points. Jason took the flag in 2nd place, with 12 championship points and guaranteed his place on the first row of the grid for race 2.
In his BTCC debut with the Chevrolet Cruze, Alex had a solid, ‘educational’ race as he lined up 15th on the grid. A clean start off the line and good pace ensured he kept with the pack ahead, in close pursuit of Pinkney. A spin on track did nothing to knock Alex’s focus as he rejoined and made a couple of important places to get to P7. With tyres a constant concern for all, Alex kept enough momentum to secure his points-finishing position and end his first race in a very impressive 7th place.
In dry, slightly warmer conditions, race two of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship got underway, with Jason starting on the front row of the grid in P2 and Alex in P7.
From the lights, Jason made a clean start, holding position and resisting pressure from the ever-present O’Neill behind. Despite O’Neill’s best efforts, Jason adapted his defensive driving style, ensuring better exit from the corners, enabling him to pull away and keep a margin to maintain position. Some intense laps unfolded, as the team watched two of the championship’s greatest on-track rivals fighting for position, but a lap later, Jason ran wide, allowing Neal to position himself side-by-side with the Cruze. Trying to outbrake each other into the chicane, the duelling pair made contact as Jason ran wide under braking, unable to make the corner. Both spun simultaneously, but rejoined the pack – Neal heading for P2 and Jason further down in P4.
Alex also enjoyed his on-track action, having won the battle for position from Clio Cup rival, Phil Glew off the start. Running in 5th place by the eighth lap, Alex was posting consistently quick lap times and closing in on the back of the leading pack, until a charging Neal caught and passed him. Jordan was next to make a move and again some good, close but clean racing between the pair ensued. Staying with the pack, Alex finished his second race in a very respectable 6th place – another points scoring finish for the championship’s youngest competitor.
The final race of the day proved intense for the Silverline Chevrolet team, with Jason fighting for position from start to finish. Despite the constant threat in the early laps from Giovanardi, later followed by Shedden, Jason found himself on familiar territory as he took to the podium for the second time.
In the sister Cruze, Alex endured a tough race having made a slow getaway from the start. With a train of traffic passing, Alex was unable to gain momentum and slipped down to 14th position. But holding his focus, the 19-year old maintained consistent pace and avoided trouble to finish the race in 9th.
Commenting on day’s results, Jason told ITV: “It’s been a great day for us. The target was 30 points, I think we got 31. The racing was fantastic and it’s great that we’ve had different winners today. We knew the Vauxhall would be strong here, but for Silverline Chevrolet, the championship begins at Rockingham, which is where we’ll be on maximum attack.”
Alex commented, “I made a good start and managed to get a good run at Pinkney through Goodwood but then I spun, so the focus moved from looking after the tyres to making up a place. There was some carnage in front with cars running off track because of tyre problems, so I gained and passed Pinkney. It was a good result for my debut race. For me the objective was first to finish, and learn all I could in this first race. Already I’ve learnt a lot more on tyre management – it’s very different to Clio racing.”
The Silverline Chevrolet team leaves Thruxton with six out of six points scoring finishes – Jason is now 2nd in the overall championship with 31 points (7 points behind leader, Giovanardi) and Alex 7th on 11 points. Chevrolet lead the Manufacturer/Constructor Championship with 74 points, 29 points clear of nearest rivals, Honda.
The next round of the BTCC will be held at Rockingham on Sunday April 25th