90 not out as Plato tops Collard duel
Jason Plato produced a defensive masterclass to win his 90th Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race after fending off the attentions from Rob Collard’s BMW for much of Thruxton’s second contest.
West Surrey Racing’s Collard blasted by Plato’s Team BMR VW off the line and immediately set about holding position. Prior to the race Collard cited the need to maintain the lead for at least the opening three laps while his BMW 125i M Sport built enough heat into its Dunlop tyres. Unfortunately for the real-wheel drive racer he was unable to withstand the pressure and Plato was back into the lead by the end of the second tour.
There was drama behind when Andy Priaulx’s BMW and Adam Morgan’s Mercedes made contact at high speed through Allard with both cars spinning wildly out of control on the opening lap. Both recovered but for Priaulx it was only a brief reprieve after further contact at the Complex forced him out of contention.
Jeff Smith’s Eurotech Honda and Josh Cook’s Power Maxed Chevrolet were two of the four pitlane attendees at the end of lap one, with both having had to take evasive action from the Morgan/Priaulx incident. Both were successful in their attempts but as they skittled across the grass they collided with the lightweight Dunlop advertising hoardings. With banners attached to the front of their machines they were both forced to pit to avoid their cars from overheating.
Gordon Shedden had settled into third ahead of the fourth placed battle between Aron Smith’s VW and Matt Neal’s Honda. The tussle came to a head on lap seven when Neal’s Civic Type R made contact with the Team BMR machine at the Complex. It was a heavy hit and one that forced Neal into retirement with Smith only able to limp on in the lower reaches of the top ten – he would eventually finish 11th.
The incident played into the hands of Jack Goff and Colin Turkington with both able to secure relatively lonely fourth and fifth places respectively. Sam Tordoff’s BMW got the better of Andrew Jordan’s MG6 as the duo enjoyed their own joust for sixth, whilst Adam Morgan recovered from his earlier moment to take eighth. Further good news followed for the WIX Racing driver when he was picked at random during the post race draw and he will now start the final race from pole position.
That news will have been a blow for ninth and tenth placed Rob Austin and Aiden Moffat, both of whom had worked tirelessly to reach the top ten despite not having their cars set-up entirely to their liking.
The race will be remembered, however, for the classic duel between Plato and Collard with the latter having the pace in all the wrong places. Collard’s BMW would close the gap at will through the corners while Plato’s VW would then pull away through the fast sections. It was frustrating stuff for Collard who flashed his lights on several occasions in an attempt to disrupt his rival, but Plato proved why he is the most successful BTCC driver in history by going to take an incredible 90th career victory.
“I really enjoyed that,” beamed Plato. “I expected Rob [Collard] to fall away but he didn’t. I had to keep it tight and not over-push – it was a bit cat and mouse and some lateral thinking was required. He was much quicker in the slow corners and drove really well. I had to be so careful with my car positioning but I enjoy that kind of challenge.”
“Jason [Plato] was fast at the start so I just sat in behind him and was hoping for the tyre degradation to come, but it never did,” responded Collard. “I gave him a few nibbles but nothing too bad – I was trying everything I could to catch him out but it’s pretty much impossible to force JP into making a mistake. His car was quick where it needed to be and slow where I couldn’t do much about it – I’ll give him 10/10 for defence! I pushed him hard, now we’ll try and do one better for race three. It’s a home race for me and some of my key sponsors, Duo and Hitachi, so it’s a big day for all of us.”