Plato wins as Neal spins in race one

Jason Plato took his fifth win of the season in the Chevrolet team’s first ever one-two finish in the first race this afternoon at Snetterton, but only after a controversial tangle with long rival Matt Neal.

The reigning champion lead from start to finish after making a good getaway from the grid, but it was not as good as fourth-place starter Neal who made his way around the outside of the leaders into turn one and challenged Plato for the lead.

The pair then appeared to make contact as the Chevrolet tagged the back of Neal’s Honda Civic exiting Riches, sending the championship leader into a big spin across the track where he was lucky not to be hit by the following pack or make contact with the barriers.

Plato from then on was uncatchable and went on to win the race by 2.242s from team-mate Alex MacDowall, who jumped the second Honda of front-row starter Gordon Shedden at the start, Shedden completing the podium but understandably feeling the pinch of the latest boost reduction.

“It was a good result with the ballast I had in the car, but race two should be better now the Chevys will have some ballast put in them instead” Shedden told ITV4. “They would think that (that their is more parity) because they’re at the front now, but my car was not closing in on them on the straights, and their car is obviously better through the corners anyway because of the weight we have from the engine.”

After his sensational performance in qualifying yesterday, Frank Wrathall was again a sensation as he went on to finish in fourth place in the NGTC Toyota Avensis, passing James Nash at Agostini corner before chasing after the Ford of Tom Chilton for fourth.

The pressure from the youngster paid off as Chilton got out of shape heading into Riches on lap six and slid wide onto the grass, handing the fourth place to Wrathall on a plate. Chilton later dropped from fifth place down to ninth after slowing on the last lap.

The battle of the race was behind them between Mat Jackson and Paul O’Neill. The Techspeed driver dropped behind Jackson’s Motorbase Ford after a sideways moment at Riches early in the race, but spent the second half of the race putting Jackson under huge pressure. Despite numerous looks at an overtake, Jackson held on to sixth place ahead of O’Neill and Tom Onslow-Cole, – who had hit a tyre stack on lap one – Jackson’s drive coming from 13th on the grid.

His Independent rival Andrew Jordan was another driver to drop back at the start, and could only fight back to 12th place behind Dave Newsham and team-mate Jeff Smith. Martin Byford finished 14th in his maiden BTCC race, while Daniel Welch finished 22nd in the Proton’s first race ahead of Rob Collard, who pitted earlier in the race.

Neal got going again but could only recover to a lowly 18th place – and therefore no championship points – where he will also start for race two.

Neal told ITV4 on the incident: “I’d say I think it was a bit of a cheeky move, but who knows what they will say about it. I don’t know what his (Plato’s) view of it is but he hasn’t been round to see us anyway about it.”

Race one result:

 1. Jason Plato      Chevrolet              24m12.064s
3. Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet                + 2.242s
3. Gordon Shedden   Honda                    + 3.419s
4. Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota          + 10.113s
5. James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall       + 15.397s
6. Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford          + 18.928s
7. Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 19.196s
8. Tom Onslow-Cole  Arena Ford              + 24.102s
9. Tom Chilton      Arena Ford              + 26.035s
10. Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT     + 26.884s
11. Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall       + 27.306s
12. Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall       + 32.633s
13. Nick Foster      WSR BMW                 + 33.330s
14. Martyn Byford    AmD Volkswagen          + 33.816s
15. Rob Austin       Austin Audi             + 40.162s
16. Andy Neate       Arena Ford              + 44.389s
17. Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford          + 46.453s
18. Matt Neal        Honda                   + 55.616s
19. John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 56.625s
20. Chris James      ES Chevrolet          + 1m13.714s
21. Tony Hughes      Speedworks Toyota     + 1m16.042s
22. Daniel Welch     Welch Proton          + 1m43.854s
23. Rob Collard      WSR BMW                  + 2 laps
DNF    Tony Gilham      Triple 8 Vauxhall          2 laps
DNF    Lea Wood         Central Honda              0 laps
DNF    Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT        0 laps

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