Jason Plato continues to lead the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, extending his lead over Matt Neal to 17 points in what has without doubt been one of the most tense, yet exhilarating of touring car race meetings this year for the Silverline Chevrolet team. And despite a punishing first race ending Jason’s hopes of a strong result in the gravel trap, the championship leader put in two of his finest drives of the year to take two third place finishes and secure a protective margin going into the championship climax at Brands Hatch in three weeks’ time.
In the first of the day’s races Jason’s hope of triumph turned to frustration on lap thirteen following contact with championship rival, Matt Neal. Contact between Jason and Matt resulted in an ailing Honda spearing across the
track, collecting up the island barriers and impacting Jason’s Cruze as he went, forcing the Jason wide and into the run off barriers on the exit. With significant damage to the front left corner and front suspension, Jason’s race
came to a bitterly disappointing premature end.
In contrast there was much to celebrate for Alex MacDowall in the sister Cruze, finishing an impressive 4th from 10th on the grid. Off the line Alex maintained position and, despite slipping down to 13th, was soon back
fighting for position at the front end of the field. With chaos removing a collection of front runners, Alex kept a cool focus to avoid the unravelling carnage ahead and, closing right onto Jackson’s tail the Cruze was on good
form but yellow flags into the hairpin on the final lap would prevent the potential for any further door-to-door racing.
Speaking after the incident, Jason said: “Matt got inside Onslow-Cole on the back straight and then I got a good run on Matt. The plan was to follow him through on the inside but as he (Matt) got on the brakes a bit early, I just
caught him a little bit. Then he had a slide and bounced off the barriers, spearing back into me. It’s a racing incident which certainly wasn’t in the game plan, but these things happen.”
Of his points-scoring 4th place finished, Alex summarised: “I got quite a good start but the guys on the inside didn’t, forcing me round the outside into the first corner. Cars were making moves up the inside so I was pushed onto the grass. I saw the carnage at the front of the chicane so managed to capitalise on that. By keeping the pace and getting a better exit I jumped a few and worked my way up to 4th.”
Jason’s stunning race two drive crucially kept his title rivals at bay with Neal and Onslow-Cole both enduring tough races. By lap two alone Jason had diced his way through the field and was running in 9th, but the race was far
from over for the championship hopeful. From a brief safety car period, Jason breezed ahead of Lea Wood and Tom Boardman in one swoop and went on to collect an all-important fastest lap championship point. Jason commented: “Pleased with that! It was a bit of damage limitation there really and that’s the nice thing about this result – immediately after race one the team got to work on my car and put tremendous effort in – there was a lot of work to do new doors and front and rear suspension as well as engine checks, so this result is a ‘JP thank you’ to them.”
It was an active race for Alex too, spending much of it in the mix with the leading pack until, coming under attack from Kane and team-mate Jason, Alex was forced to deploy avoiding action and, in missing the island tyre
barrier at the chicane, ran wide across the gravel. Alex finished 11th.
The third and final race of the day proved fruitful once again for Jason, storming through to take 3rd place, claiming fastest laps honours en route, and increasing his points tally to 224 points, 17 clear of second-placed rival, Matt Neal on 207. With Shedden just 4 points behind Neal and Onslow-Cole on 200, the championship fight finale at Brands Hatch looks set to be one of the closest in recent years.
Jason commented: “Brands Hatch is going to be really exciting it’s all to play for, although I’d have liked more of a buffer. I wanted to get ahead of Andrew and I knew that it would take a mistake from him. I got a good lunge and managed to get through. You have to think about points, but I knew I was right alongside him so the line was mine. A big thanks goes out to my team for all their efforts, skill and dedication. It just shows if you dig deep you can get a result. We’ve had a good day.”
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship showdown will reach its verdict on the 9th & 10th October for the season finale at Brands Hatch.