Plato and Turkington Shine at Snetterton
Jason Plato arrived at Snetterton in desperate need of a good points haul following some average weekends. Plato couldn’t have wished for much better, as he re-ignited his championship challenge following two victories and a fourth place. However, championship leader, Colin Turkington, was also on-song with a brace of seconds and a third to leave him with a 23 point cushion at the top of the leader board.
Plato had shown great pace in the practice sessions and converted that pace to secure pole position for Sunday from Turkington, Sam Tordoff, Matt Neal, Alain Menu and an impressive sixth for Tom Ingram. The man closest to Turkington in the championship, Gordon Shedden, was down in 11th with Fabrizio Giovanardi at the back following misdemeanours at Croft last time out. Joining Giovanardi at the back of the grid, but starting from the pit lane, was Andrew Jordan following a heavy smash in practice that left him with some concussion, meaning he was ruled out of the qualifying session. Jordan however, was cleared to race on Sunday morning.
One other point of note, was that the cars lined up on the grid for the first time since 1988, according to the ITV commentary team, without a Vauxhall on the grid. This was due to Warren Scott and Jack Goff swapping their Insignias to join teammates Menu and Aron Smith with Volkswagen CCs. Quite an amazing stat.
Race One saw Plato make a good start and maintain his lead from the always fast starting Turkington. At the first corner, Riches, Tordoff went wide and found himself on the grass, which then seemed to cause chaos behind him. It subsequently turned out that Tordoff had a broken brake pipe and within the confusion several drivers found themselves making errors with Nick Foster and Aiden Moffat amongst the unlucky/guilty parties. At the front it was Plato from Turkington, Menu and Ingram whilst further down on lap 1, Marc Hynes was barged off the circuit by Jack Goff although both did continue.
Lap 3 saw Neal make a relatively straight forward pass on Ingram for 4th, but he didn’t find getting away from him easy because they were involved in a gaggle of cars that were all running closely behind Menu. However, Ingram was out of luck because on the following lap once Smith had just found a way past, so did Adam Morgan and Shedden in the same manoeuvre and Mat Jackson too by the end of the lap.
As the cars came to cross the start-finish line at the beginning of lap 5, Smith put the, in my opinion unnecessary, squeeze on Menu and the pair touched in what was a really stupid move by the Irishman. However, whatever his plan was back-fired as the impressive Morgan overtook them both for 4th and Menu remained ahead of his teammate. Lap 6 saw Collard making good progress as he’d reached 10th from a grid slot of 19th and Shedden up to 7th, right on the back of Smith. Jordan, on the other hand, was not having as much luck as he tried to clamber forward from the back as by lap 8 he was still back in 19th. He was helped by Jack Clarke crashing into Jordan’s teammate Martin Depper, which allowed Jordan to gain two positions relatively easily.
On the final lap, what had promised to be a good race for Ingram turned sour as his front wheel detached from the car sending him off-road and the wheel towards the barriers. However, Plato had driven a superb race at the front to come home victorious, amazingly only his second win of the season, with Turkington an easy second from Neal, Morgan, Menu and Smith. Giovanardi had a great race, finally finishing 13th, with Jordan managing a place outside the points in 16th and twelve seconds behind Gio. ESM’s new mate from Croft, Robb Holland, took his first point of the season with a 15th place finish. Well done, Robb!
Race Two had a lively start with Turkington just edging out Plato off the line to lead into the first corner. Meanwhile behind, Menu was tagged by Morgan, who was already there to be fair, and was sent flying into the barriers and his stricken car was left in the middle of the track following the impact, which resulted in the safety car being called for. But, before the safety car was on track, Jordan was able to make up several positions to be 10th with the order being Turkington from Plato, Neal, Morgan and Shedden at the end of the lap.
The race re-started on lap 5 with Turkington and Plato catching Neal sleeping as they both opened up a sizeable gap to the Honda driver. Jordan was still on a mission and took Collard for 9th, but his mission soon hit trouble in the form of Goff and Collard again, as the three of them ended up in a sandwich and Jordan was spat out of it at Brundle, leaving him to re-join in 22nd. Lap 6 brought more action; this time Scott’s VW CC finding itself on two wheels as it mounted Clarke’s Focus leaving it with a broken wheel, Holland suffered significant damage to the rear and Shedden made his way around the outside of Morgan.
The next couple of laps saw Plato significantly close the gap to Turkington to be on his bumper and the Honda duo of Neal and Shedden close together, but there was no switch between the pair as yet. However, on lap 9 the drivers involved performed carbon copy moves as Plato went down the inside of Turkington at Montreal with Shedden doing the same to Neal as the top 4 all swapped positions. The swapping of positions allowed Morgan to close up to the back of Neal, although he was unable to find a way past.
Ingram had failed to start the race, but came out to check the car on lap 10 and Collard found himself off at the end of the lap following contact with Tordoff. Giovanardi, running 7th, was clearly holding up Smith, but he was unable to find a route by.
On the final couple of laps, Turkington found some more speed to take the fight back to Plato, but he was unsuccessful in regaining the lead. Glynn Geddie had an identical incident to Menu at the start, this time he was helped by Dave Newsham and it allowed Jordan to make up a couple of places, before he eventually took 15th with a photo finish. In the end, it was once again Plato on the top step of the podium from Turkington, with Shedden completing the rostrum. Neal came home in 4th from Morgan and there was a top-6 finish for Mat Jackson on his 250th BTCC race.
Race Three saw a relaxed Aron Smith take pole from the reverse grid draw with Giovanardi, Jackson and Morgan those around him. However, one significant man not on the grid for the final race was Jordan, who was advised not to race on medical grounds as he was still suffering from his practice crash.
An exciting first lap started with Smith retaining his lead off the line despite heavy pressure from Giovanardi and Jackson remained in 3rd under heavy pressure from Morgan, but Shedden dropped down the order behind Turkington and Plato. It was soon Morgan under pressure though and he was smacked wide by Neal in a robust move, but he recovered to 6th ahead of Plato. Lap 3 saw the only Pirtek Racing car of Depper in the wars, as he ran wide at Riches after losing the back end and he collected the innocent Nick Foster. Depper’s car was more of a mess than Foster’s, but they both managed to limp back to the pits.
By lap 5, Jackson was really close behind Giovanardi and Neal was holding up a train of cars too. The race was simmering nicely and it really came to life on lap 7 at the Montreal hairpin. Jackson found a way past Giovanardi and Neal was sent into a spin following a small tap from behind by Turkington. Replays looked like Turkington slightly misjudged his braking and caught the back of Neal as he was moving across the track. Following the collision, Morgan was able to use his momentum to just edge past Turkington, although Turkington quickly regained the place and he was followed through by Plato and Shedden. The top 4 was now Smith from Jackson, Giovanardi and Turkington.
Towards the end of the race, the lap times were really dropping off and it meant that Jackson was all over Smith for the lead although his attempts on lap 9 were unsuccessful. However, it was quite possible that anyone in the top 6 could still win the race; such was the queue of cars behind Smith. Turkington was showing real fight and aggression in this race and he defended well from Plato as he tried to take him up the inside.
The final lap saw Jackson try for the lead one more time, but again it was to no avail, which meant that Smith held on for his second victory of the season, both from the reverse grid pole draw. However, there was a change for the final podium position as Giovanardi went wide allowing Turkington to nip through to secure his third podium of the day. More misfortune followed for Giovanardi as he span at the last corner after coming together with Collard which meant he finally finished down in 13th. It was a real shame for the Italian as this was arguably his best race since he came back into the BTCC, despite having secured a podium at Thruxton earlier in the season. After the podium of Smith, Jackson and Turkington came Plato, Shedden and Collard.
All 3 races at Snetterton provided good entertainment from the start, which is now becoming a bit of a rarity with everyone normally trying to make sure that their cars survive until the final race! The championship now certainly looks like it’s a two-horse race between Turkington and Shedden, although Plato isn’t completely out of it 43 points behind the leader, but it would take a monumental effort for Plato to win it from the position he’s in. The MG has always gone well at Snetterton, but it was nice to see a return to form for the team with Tordoff also going well. Turkington obviously had a good weekend stretching his lead over Shedden to 23 points and you would have to say he is the favourite to regain the BTCC drivers’ crown. However, he will be starting Knockhill with an eight place grid penalty following his incident with Neal; a very harsh decision considering Neal didn’t get punished for his barge on Morgan and with it being Turkington’s first offence. However, I’m sure he’ll be able to recover and have another good weekend next time out.
Championship Standings after Round 18 of 30
|1. Colin Turkington||279 points|
|2. Gordon Shedden||256|
|3. Jason Plato||236|
|4. Andrew Jordan||201|
|5. Rob Collard||184|
|6. Mat Jackson||173|
Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season.
|1. Alain Menu||86 places gained|
|2. Nick Foster||77|
|3. Rob Collard||68|
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
A disastrous weekend for Jordan following his free practice crash. You would have to say that his hopes of retaining his title and now extremely slim. Depper – as per usual.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
Finally a decent weekend for Neal. Shedden kept up the pressure on Turkington despite falling further behind in the standings.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
MG, hurrah! A good weekend for them, especially for Plato. It’s not been often that we’ve been able to say that this season.
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
A couple of top 10 finishes meant it was a good weekend for Marc Hynes.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
A super weekend for Turkington, average for Collard and a poor one for Foster following a couple of incidents that weren’t really his fault.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Another good weekend for Jackson as he secured plenty of points and Giovanardi looked back to his best in the final race, but will it continue at Knockhill?
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Ended up with a broken wheel in the second race.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Now Menu, Smith and Scott following Scott’s switch to the CC. Menu and Smith looked good all weekend, but had differing fortunes. Scott secured his best ever BTCC finish in the first race with 12th.
RCIB Insurance Racing – Volkswagen CC
Goff, as far as I’m aware, is still racing under the RCIB Insurance Racing banner and was 10th, 11th and 10th which isn’t bad for your first event in a new car.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
25th, 21st and 23rd for Simon Belcher this weekend.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
The Protons have never improved this season, probably aren’t going to now either.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Curze
Moffat achieved his best set of results this weekend with 23rd, 17th and 16th, but his first point remains elusive.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
The Focus is still better than that Golf despite a poor weekend!
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
A couple of points finished for Glynn Geddie sandwiched between a DNF. Good weekend for him overall, less so for Cole.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
At least Chris Stockton could race this weekend and he even finished one of the races. That is progress considering his recent luck.
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
Morgan was really on it this weekend! 4th, 5th and 8th meant it was definitely his best weekend of the season so far.
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
Finished all 3 races despite a couple of excursions here and there.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Hunter Abbott was back to normal after a great outing at Croft with a couple of 20ths sandwiching 24th.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Better than Croft for Austin, but he didn’t manage to pick up that many points.
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
Robb Holland has won a point! Well done sir! Great success for a great looking car. Shame it was followed by two retirements!
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
Superb qualifying from Ingram, but the Avensis doesn’t seem to have the race pace required to finish in high points scoring positions. In the end, it was unfortunately two retirements and 17th.
Next up: Knockhill, 24th August.