Plato reignites championship challenge with Snetterton double
Jason Plato scored a fantastic double victory at Snetterton to reignite his 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship challenge while eBay Motors’ Colin Turkington extended his advantage over Gordon Shedden at the top of the standings.
A dramatic weekend of action kicked off when reigning champion Andrew Jordan endured a high-speed accident during practice, leaving the 25-year-old showing signs of concussion after his Honda Civic left the track and hit the barrier at Riches.
Jordan missed qualifying and had to start the opening of the three races from the back of the pack after being granted medical clearance on Sunday morning. Things went from bad to worse for the Pirtek Racing driver, however, when the medical team assessed him again at the conclusion of race two. Clearly exhausted Jordan was subsequently deemed unfit to contest the final race of the day, a decision from the doctors that the Lichfield-based racer implicitly agreed with.
A weekend of unfortunate woes for Jordan was the polar opposite to that experienced by double champion Plato. The MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save driver was already the most successful driver at Snetterton in the history of the BTCC and he duly added his 12th and 13th victories at the circuit on a scorching Sunday afternoon in Norfolk.
He led from start-to-finish in the opening race, keeping Turkington’s eBay Motors BMW at arms length. Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Tourer took third ahead of an impressive run from Adam Morgan in the new-for-2014 WIX Racing Mercedes A-Class.
Plato’s second win of the day also came at the expense of Turkington but he was made to work extremely hard during a race long battle. Turkington’s BMW soared into the lead as the 31 flame-spitting tin tops approached Riches for the first time as Plato tucked his MG6 in behind.
Plato slipped down the inside of Turkington at Montreal on lap nine and although he was kept honest throughout – often less than half a second behind the MG – the king of Snetterton held on to complete his double. Shedden secured a podium after getting by his Honda Yuasa Racing team-mate Matt Neal.
Aron Smith took his and the Chrome Edition Restart Racing squad’s second win of the season in a dramatic reversed-grid finale.
Smith started from pole and narrowly held the lead from the Ford Focuses of former double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and Mat Jackson.
The Airwaves Racing machines later swapped positions as Jackson made his own attempt at usurping Smith and the constant battling allowed the frontrunners to close up. With two laps to go just 2.5 seconds covered the top eight, in the order of Smith, Jackson, Giovanardi, Turkington, Plato, Shedden, Sam Tordoff and Rob Collard, who had charged through the field after starting on row nine in his West Surrey Racing BMW.
Smith held off Jackson by just 0.444s at the finish while Giovanardi’s podium slipped away just three corners from home when he slid off at the Bomb Hole, handing the final rostrum of the weekend to Turkington.
The Ulsterman’s podium hat-trick has moved him into a 23-point lead over Shedden. Double champion Plato is now third in the championship, another 20 behind. Turkington has been handed a post-event eight-place grid penalty by the stewards following a race three incident with Neal, which will give his challengers some hope when the BTCC moves to Knockhill in Scotland in three weeks time.
Jason Plato said: “I really enjoyed that race and we are delighted with the results. It was a good move on Colin at the hairpin. Colin is a fair and world-class driver and he didn’t want to clatter with me as he was thinking about the points and championship. We are in a great place with the car but I am behind in the points after the first half of the year. Now the car is good it’s time to claw points back in the championship.”
Colin Turkington said: “We did all the hard work yesterday to get up on the front row. The eBay Motors BMW was really tidy and we found a good chunk of pace in the races. We kept Jason honest throughout race two but the final three or four laps my fronts started to go off and once that started to happen, he went off like a scalded cat. All day the BMW has been great and in that final race we were quite strong on the soft tyre but it was still hard to try and fight my way through the pack. These points today are great for me and the team.”
Gordon Shedden said: “The start from seventh to third was a great result for race two. The Civic Tourer was fantastic without ballast as I could really drive the car rather than have to wait for results to come to me. It was a tough day at the office but we knew it’d be tricky after qualifying 11th. I’ve tried everything and I’ve made up places in every race today. Points make prizes and they could be absolutely critical come the end of the season at Brands Hatch.”
Aron Smith said: “I have never won in the dry in the BTCC so this win was a sweet one and I now feel I can conquer it all! Both Motorbase cars kept me honest and I tried to keep as much distance between us as possible. The team made it happen. I had a bit of an off earlier in the week testing and they turned it around and into a race winner – no other team could have done that.”