Plato back on the BTCC podium
Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing headed to a newly resurfaced Croft Circuit for Rounds 10, 11, and 12 of the Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship and would end the weekend with a popular podium for tin top legend Jason Plato.
Sadly, qualifying brought nothing but frustration for both drivers, as every attempt at setting a time was thwarted by a red flag.
With a couple of major offs, a total of five red flags created a topsy-turvy grid. Plato managed to secure a compromised start from 10th spot, albeit less than 0.5 seconds off pole, whilst Collard was even more frustrated down in 16th.
As the cars made their way down into the tricky turn one, Plato managed to get past the hard tyre-shod Audi of Jake Hill into ninth, only to be demoted back to tenth by Josh Cook on the next lap. Hanging on to the lead pack, the #11 Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Astra managed to re-take a sliding Cook on lap six and close up on Jackson ahead in eighth.
Further back, Collard was in the middle of a pack of cars jostling for position and dragging mud out onto the racing line. Unsighted, Collard had a moment before hitting wet mud on the exit of Sunny corner, losing the rear of the #9 Astra and hitting the bank hard. The badly damaged car could not be moved, necessitating a safety car on lap seven.
Ollie Jackson’s Ford Focus RS suffered a front-left puncture, moving Plato up to eighth before the restart, after which he immediately set about pressuring Ash Sutton for seventh, before falling into the clutches of Cook. He secured a hard earned eighth and good points come the chequered flag.
A quick turnaround by the hard-working PMR crew repaired extensive damage to the front, left side and rear of Collard’s Astra ahead of race two. Fortunately, the weather had remained dry since Race 1, and although Rob was starting stone last in 30th place, there was less mud and debris for the Hampshire driver to avoid.
A hectic opening lap saw consolidate seventh, becoming part of the train of cars running line astern battling for second and third places. Plato was frustratingly unable to create subsequent overtaking opportunities, though proved a threat. In fact, the double champion pulled off a great move as he followed Sutton through by Tom Chilton’s Motorbase Ford to set up an entertaining four-way battle all the way to the finish with Sutton, Cook and Tom Ingram.
From the back, Collard had a superb opening lap in the rebuilt Vauxhall, jumping eight spots in just over two miles before consolidating his position whilst monitoring high engine temperatures for a few laps.
By lap 10, the multiple BTCC race winner was among the fastest cars on the track and having got past both Dan Rowbottom and Ollie Jackson to move into 19th, where he would finish.
Plato made a great start in race three, vitally out-dragging the slick shod Toyota of Ingram, and fighting off the fast-starting BMW of Andrew Jordan –challenging for second as they headed into the unknown of a first flying lap in the wet.
With the slick shod cars sinking like a stone, Collard battled to stay on the track, falling to 28th. It was to be a long race of survival laced with more frustration.
On his wets, Plato was getting even faster. Not content with being consistently the fastest car on wets, he hunted the win – constantly nibbling away at the Honda of Cook with increasing urgency as he could see Chilton edging away. Around the twists of Croft, with a dry line now appearing, final efforts were fruitless, as a frustrated Plato bemoaned his fate over the radio, albeit delighting the hard working PMR crew with a well-earned podium.
Jason Plato, Sterling Insurance with Power Maxed Racing Vauxhall Astra #11 said: “I’ve always felt really connected with this car in the wet, as we showed at Brands during Qualifying and this afternoon. I had the fastest wet lap, which was only pipped on the last lap as the track really started to dry up. The weekend over all was good; we’ve just quietly gone about our business and just chipped away at it. I’m going home happy.”