Plato takes record-breaking win in BTCC opener

Plato won a frantic first race as Neal suffered a DNF

Jason Plato broke Andy Rouse’s record of 60 British Touring Car victories by winning a typically chaotic season opener at Brands Hatch as his main rivals all fell by the wayside.

 

The defending champion made a perfect getaway from third on the grid to challenge pole sitter Matt Neal into Paddock Hill bend, and drew alongside the Honda as Neal slid wide with a handful of oversteer and allowed the Chevrolet to slot up the inside into Druids.

As Plato braked very late to grab the lead from Neal, his Chevrolet team-mate Alex MacDowall tried to follow him through but misjudged his braking and tagged the back of the Honda, sending the unfornate Neal into the gravel and the worst possible start to the season for last year’s runner-up.

“Well I was worried about the start but that didn’t turn out to be the problem.” Neal told ITV. “The car got a bit loose going into paddock and then i got a massive it in the back from MacDowall. It’s a good car but we couldn’t get the chance to use it.”

The safety car was deployed as Neal’s Civic was recovered, but Plato then caught second place man James Nash napping at the restart and pulled out over a second after one lap alone on the Vauxhall driver. Nash closed the gap to Plato throughout the race to under a second but could not catch the Chevrolet.

Tom Chilton made up for the problems he had yesterday with a podium finish in the new car’s debut, although he had to fight off his 2010 car in the hands of Mat Jackson early on.

The front row was not the best place to start as Andrew Jordan also had a dificult race, first being muscled out by Plato at the start and then being boxed out in the MacDowall/Neal accident. On the restart Mat Jackson and Tom Boardman pushed Jordan down to seventh at Clearways, where he was quick to force his way back past Boardman at Clearways later in the race.

Jordan made a great cutback move on MacDowall immediately after at Paddock Hill to move into fifth place but his race was then ruined by a left front puncture.

Gordon Shedden rewarded the Dynamics team for all their hard work to repair his Civic overnight with a fighting drive through the field to sixth place at the flag. Having fought his way into the top ten he then put a forceful move on Paul O’Neill with a little bump at Druids, and then an even more forceful move on Boardman which ended in the SEAT driver retiring from the race.

Tony Gilham, Jeff Smith and Dave Newsham all had a great start to their first seasons in BTCC as they rounded out the points finishes in eight, ninth and 10th respectively. 

It was the worst possible start to the season for Rob Collard as he was involved in an accident with Motorbase Ford rookie Liam Griffin on the warm-up lap before the race. He told ITV: “It’s crazy. I was just warming up the tyres and I just got hit really hard from behind.”

Race results:

 1.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet             20m31.736s
2.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall       + 0.709s
3.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford              + 4.318s
4.  Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford          + 4.746s
5.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet              + 13.078s
6.  Gordon Shedden   Honda                  + 14.663s
7.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet   + 15.260s
8.  Tony Gilham      Triple 8 Vauxhall      + 16.259s
9.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall      + 21.946s
10.  Dave Newsham     Geoff Steel BMW        + 23.508s
11.  Andy Neate       Arena Ford             + 24.798s
12.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW                + 26.706s
13.  Tom Onslow-Cole  AmD Volkswagen         + 28.240s
14.  John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet     + 1 lap
15.  Chris James      ES Chevrolet             + 1 lap
16.  Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall        + 1 lap
17.  Rob Collard      WSR BMW                 + 2 laps
DNF     Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT      22 laps
DNF     Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota        15 laps
DNF     Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota           13 laps
DNF     Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford            0 laps
DNF     Matt Neal        Honda                     0 laps



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