Plato takes lights to flag win in race one

Silverline Chevrolet’s Jason Plato converted pole position into victory in an exciting opening race at Rockingham to move into third place in the championship.

The reigning champion but behind him the controversial qualifying session yesterday by making a superb start from the pole position to lead ahead of the fast-starting Audi of Rob Austin and fellow front row starter Paul O’Neill.

Drama then broke out behind them as Matt Neal and James Nash made contact at turn three which caused a domino effect that saw Mat Jackson clattered into a spin by the other Honda of Gordon Shedden in the chain reaction, Jackson failing to score for the fourth time in succession.

Plato was then briefly challenged by Austin for the lead until the Audi driver was tagged by O’Neill at Pif Paf corner and sent into a spin, easing the pressure on Plato at the front in the early stages of the race.

The man who had made the most of the chaos was eighth place starter Andrew Jordan who had leaped up into third place, however his race came to a premature end on lap four after a contact with the attacking Shedden that caused steering damage to Jordan’s Vauxhall Vectra.

The safety car was soon brought out to remove the stricken cars of Dave Newsham and Rob Collard, the latter having spun after contact with Tom Onslow-Cole while trying to pass the Ford driver up the inside at turn five.

At the restart, Plato was untouchable and went on to win his sixth race of the season by 2.612s from the older TechSpeed Cruze of O’Neill.

“The key was to get a good start and I managed to get a really good start” Plato told ITV4, “then Rob got alongside me and then seemed to just exit stage right and that I think gave me my breathing space, it was just about maintaining a rhythm. I had to make sure my restart was good and my Silverline Chevrolet again is a fantastic chassis and and it served me well today.”

A happy second place man O’Neill told ITV4:  “His (Plato’s) old car was trying to catch up with him but it was struggling! What a fantastic result, the guys have helped us out a lot this weekend but it’s a beautiful race car.

“He was probably backing off and I was flat out for half of the race, and then I looked behind me and thought I’ve got to conserve the tyres and then I saw Shedden and Wrathall were fighting so I even tried to catch him up.”

The battle for third kept the fans entertained meanwhile. Frank Wrathall had worked his Toyota up to fourth place and put the pressure on Shedden, while after the restart Matt Neal was the man on the move and went to the front of a train of cars by passing James Nash into the hairpin before chasing after and passing Wrathall on lap 15.

A lap later he set about attacking his team-mate Shedden for third and dived up the inside again into Tarzan, the pair rubbing bodywork and allowing Wrathall back ahead of Neal on the exit. Wrathall then got the job done on Shedden with a lunge into Deene hairpin to secure yet another podium for the impressive youngster.

Shedden then slipped behind Nick Foster’s rapid BMW, and the WSR man attacked Neal for fourth on the last lap, but the HOnda man held on to take fourth place and the championship lead back from team-mate Shedden.

As Shedden dragged his Civic to sixth place, behind them there was a late pass for seventh as Austin’s recovery drive was completed by a last lap dive inside Tom Boardman at turn four for seventh in the NGTC Audi A4.

The top ten were rounded out by Nash who struggled to ninth after being passed by Foster, Boardman and Austin late in the race, and 10th place going to debutant Michael Caine in the Motorbase Ford to pick up his first BTCC point.

Elsewhere there was a heart-stopping moment during a battle between Arena Ford’s Andy Neate and Plato’s team-mate Alex MacDowall when the pair made contact going through the turn one banking, MacDowall spinning wildly across the grass but luckily missing the famous Rockingham walls.

Race one results:

 1.  Jason Plato      Chevrolet              26m57.428s
2.  Paul O’Neill     Tech-Speed Chevrolet     + 2.612s
3.  Frank Wrathall   Dynojet Toyota          + 10.403s
4.  Matt Neal        Honda                   + 11.440s
5.  Nick Foster      WSR BMW                 + 11.846s
6.  Gordon Shedden   Honda                   + 13.832s
7.  Rob Austin       Rob Austin Audi         + 17.360s
8.  Tom Boardman     Special Tuning SEAT     + 18.951s
9.  James Nash       Triple 8 Vauxhall       + 20.777s
10.  Michael Caine    Motorbase Ford          + 21.447s
11.  Andy Neate       Arena Ford              + 22.684s
12.  Alex MacDowall   Chevrolet               + 23.998s
13.  Tom Chilton      Arena Ford              + 24.889s
14.  Jeff Smith       Eurotech Vauxhall       + 25.406s
15.  Tony Gilham      Geoff Steel BMW         + 25.636s
16.  Liam Griffin     Motorbase Ford          + 37.737s
17.  John George      Tech-Speed Chevrolet    + 38.054s
18.  Chris James      ES Chevrolet            + 43.673s
19.  Tom Onslow-Cole  Arena Ford            + 1m08.467s
20.  Martin Byford    AmD Volkswagen            + 1 lap
DNF     Daniel Welch     Welch Proton              11 laps
DNF     Rob Collard      WSR BMW                    6 laps
DNF     Dave Newsham     Special Tuning SEAT        5 laps
DNF     Andrew Jordan    Eurotech Vauxhall          2 laps
DNF     Mat Jackson      Motorbase Ford             0 laps


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