Silverline Chevrolet driver Jason Plato has become the most prolific winner ever in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, smashing Andy Rouse’s record of 60 victories in an amazing afternoon of action at Brands Hatch.
Britain’s best racing series began in truly dramatic fashion, with two cars falling by the wayside on the warm-up lap, and a dramatic crash in early practice that saw Honda’s Gordon Shedden relegated to the rear of the grid.
There was further drama on the very first lap, with Jason Plato charging up the inside on Paddock Hill Bend to pass pole-sitter Matt Neal, followed through by Silverline Chevrolet young gun Alex MacDowall in the second works Cruze. With Plato edging ahead, MacDowall, Neal, Nash and Chilton went four abreast into Druids, leading to contact between MacDowall and Neal that put the Honda into the gravel trap.
The first two laps were run under safety car conditions, but the regrouping of the pack didn’t affect Plato, who drove a faultless, textbook race to claim his 61st, and record-breaking victory.
MacDowall battled on with a damaged car, eventually coming home in fifth and scoring some valuable points for the Silverline Chevrolet team.
But frustration would befall Alex in the second of the day’s races, incurring a drive-through penalty after an alleged false start, having powered his way up into third position.
For Plato, race two would bring a second victory of the day, which combined with a solid fifth position in Race 3 left him eight points clear in the driver’s championship. The Oxford-based driver came home first despite carrying 45kg of success ballast, the victory helped by a thrilling battle for second between Matt Jackson and Gordon Shedden.
“I’m delighted,” said Jason. “To take the record number of wins is one thing, but to do so with back-to-back victories at the season opener is even better. We weren’t expecting too much at Brands as the new turbo-powered cars have an advantage on the circuit, but the Cruze’s superb handling and balance meant I could keep the momentum and ensure we could get our championship challenge off to the best start imaginable. It’s a real credit to the team at Silverline Chevrolet and RML that we took the points.”
In the third race of the day, the BTCC’s reverse-grid system did no favours for the Silverline Chevrolet team, with Jason starting from seventh and Alex twelfth on the grid after his drive-through penalty affected his finish in the second race. But both drivers came through the traffic to finish in the points, Jason coming home a respectable fifth and Alex ninth overall. There was still a Chevrolet driver on the podium, though, with privateer Paul O’Neill coming home third in his Techspeed-run Cruze.
The BTCC return s to Donington Park on Sunday April 17.