Plato takes title down to the wire!
Jason Plato has taken the 2014 British Touring Car Championship title challenge to a final round decider at Brands Hatch after he won the opening two races at Silverstone. However, while Colin Turkington has had his lead cut, it still remains at an incredibly healthy 50 points as Turkington followed Plato home in 2nd twice and then followed that up with a 3rd, a place ahead of Plato.
Qualifying saw Plato as the fastest man with Turkington behind him, with Sam Tordoff, Mat Jackson, Aron Smith and Alain Menu following them. There were a couple of people who were well out of position following qualifying, notably Gordon Shedden, 3rd in the standings, who was down in 17th.
Race One saw Turkington make a flying start past Plato to lead into Copse Corner and Jackson made it up to 3rd. The first lap only saw one casualty as Hunter Abbott failed to make it around one full circuit. Plato was never more than a car’s length away from Turkington and at the end of the 3rd lap he dived down the inside at Brooklands to take the lead cleanly.
Lap 4 saw some action at the back of the pack as Simon Belcher and Dan Welch came together, with Welch ending up with a trip across the gravel and towards the front of the pack Menu was pushing Tordoff hard. The middle of race was fairly quiet, but on lap 12 a large queue had formed behind Tom Ingram, who’d once again qualified well, but was struggling in a race. Rob Austin, winner last time out, finally got the move on Ingram with a well-executed move at Luffield Corner. A couple of laps later, luck was not on Adam Morgan’s side as he pulled out with electrical issues nor Ingram’s either as he lost more places to Rob Collard, Andrew Jordan and Jack Goff. Shedden was next to chance his arm with Ingram and the pair collided at Becketts, although they were fine to continue despite losing a few places.
On the penultimate lap, Ingram went straight on at Copse with what may have been a front puncture. However, this obviously resulted in yellow flags being waved and it meant that on the final lap, Plato lapped Belcher just in time, but Turkington couldn’t and it meant that Jackson closed right up on him and he had the momentum heading towards Becketts. Turkington just held on to 2nd as they crossed the line with Plato taking victory. 4th was taken by Plato’s teammate Tordoff ahead of Menu in 5th and Smith in 6th.
The second race of the day saw Turkington make an identical start to earlier in the day and once again he led into Copse. This time, it only took Plato one lap to overtake Turkington, again in an identical manoeuvre. Turkington stayed with Plato and on lap 7 he looked closer than ever, but he never made a serious challenge for the lead.
Lap 10 saw Shedden and Austin exchanging panels towards Becketts, which resulted in Austin sliding sideways before he was hit by Goff in what was a fairly low-level collision. The same lap also saw Martin Depper limping around with a puncture and damage and Jordan made a move on Hynes for 8th at Luffield. A couple of laps later, Menu went up the inside of Jackson for 3rd and then Smith made a move on Collard and Tordoff too, before Collard retook the position from Tordoff in what was a rare moment of action. Ingram’s poor day continued on lap 16 as he was handed a drive through penalty for exceeding track limits.
If Ingram thought he was having a bad day, Collard would soon be giving him a run for his money. First, he lost 7th to Fabrizio Giovanardi before falling back down the grid and then he was involved in a contender for crash of the season. The back wheel of Collard’s BMW was caught by the front of Jack Clarke’s Focus after he was sent into a spin from Shedden. The result of the collision saw Collard’s car fly sideways into the air before landing and turning over several times. The car was an absolute mess, but luckily Collard seemed to escape relatively uninjured despite being taken to hospital.
Unsurprisingly, the race was red flagged and the result was taken from the lap before which meant that Plato took victory from Turkington, Menu, Jackson, Smith and Tordoff. Clarke therefore finished 10th, his highest finish in BTCC, and he was the lucky man to meet Steve Rider for the reverse grid draw.
Clarke drew Giovanardi on pole, which meant Tordoff would be 2nd from Smith, Jackson, Menu, Turkington and Plato. As the cars were on the grid for the third race of the day, there were reports that Tordoff’s engine was ‘cranking low.’ As the cars set off for the green flag lap, Tordoff’s MG moved an inch before being covered in a large white plume of smoke. This resulted in a delayed start as the marshals needed to put plenty of cement dust down to cover the oil on the track.
There was a good start by Jackson who jumped to 2nd, while Giovanardi maintained the lead as Smith was 3rd and Turkington 4th. The first lap saw a hefty side impact for James Cole from Robb Holland, after Cole spun from being tagged by Abbott. Holland gave Cole a ‘piece of his mind’ after the crash, rather unfairly seeing as he’d been tagged around. The safety car was called for and before the drivers reached the safety car boards, Jackson overtook Giovanardi for the lead and led across the start finish line, just. Giovanardi’s inside line meant that he lined up first behind the safety car, although the positions were swapped before the race restarted at the end of lap 5.
Jackson made a fantastic restart, but Giovanardi was slow and Smith banged into the back of him, which allowed Turkington to make the most of his momentum and he overtook Smith for 3rd. However, Turkington soon gave the position back as he had passed before being entitled to do so. Lap 7 saw Giovanardi go wide at Copse, leaving Smith with a good run on him for 2nd, which he duly took. A couple of laps later, it was Turkington’s turn to pressurise Giovanardi as he was also coming under pressure from Menu and Plato. However, this was to remain the situation until lap 18.
In an amazing lap and a half, Turkington and Giovanardi were leaning on each other quite heavily before Turkington got the upper hand towards the end of the lap, but Giovanardi came back at the Ulsterman over the start/finish line. In the meantime, Menu had joined the party and overtook them both at Copse. However, Turkington took the inside line towards Becketts and was in prime position to regain the places before Plato followed up behind him with a major shunt. That meant that Turkington hit Giovanardi and there were 5 cars abreast down the Wellington Straight before Turkington finally secured the 3rd position at Brooklands with Plato in 4th and Menu 5th. The race was relatively easy for Jackson after the 1st lap and he came home as victor from Smith, Turkington, Plato, Menu and Jordan.
Amazingly, no penalties were applied this weekend in what surely must be a BTCC first since the rules were tightened. The weekend has had little impact on the destiny of the BTCC drivers’ title as Turkington still has a massive lead and it would take the unthinkable for him not to win it now. Plato, in fairness, has taken the battle to the final track, more in hope than expectation though. Plato and Tordoff are still trying to win the manufacturers’ title at Brands Hatch from Honda, which on current from should be achievable. In all honesty, Silverstone didn’t produce the best racing or minor incidents we’ve seen this season, although there were some high-profile incidents throughout, notably Collard’s crash.
One championship that has been decided before Brands Hatch is the Independents’ trophy. Most drivers would be absolutely delighted to win it, but Colin Turkington is understandably focusing his attention on the main crown, despite securing the Independents’ title after the 2nd race. Congratulations to Colin from ESM anyway!
Championship Standings after Round 27 of 30:
Jack Sears Trophy – Given to the driver who gains the most places over the season.
||103 places gained|
Pirtek Racing – Honda Civic
Jordan was going up in 2s this weekend- 10th, 8th, 6th… 4th next time at Brands? Depper was out of the points in all of the races.
Honda Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Tourer
Not another great weekend for Honda. Shedden still performed better than Neal, but they will no doubt be complaining again.
MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Another excellent weekend for MG and especially Plato. However, despite his best efforts, the championship seems to be gone.
Quantel Bifold Racing / Triple Eight Engineering – MG6 GT
Hynes had his best finish in 8th and backed that up with some other decent performances.
eBay Motors – BMW 125i M Sport
Another fine weekend for Turkington, while we all hope that Collard is perfectly ok following his massive crash at the end of Race Two. Foster was fairly quiet this weekend.
Airwaves Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
An excellent weekend for Mat Jackson, his best of the season, and Giovanardi still seems to be the driver out of luck despite being in the points in all 3 races.
Crabbie’s Racing / Motorbase – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Jack Clarke’s best weekend in the BTCC so far, highlighted by his 10th place in Race Two which he backed up with a couple of 13th places.
CHROME Edition Restart Racing – Volkswagen CC
Another great weekend for Menu who is starting to show some of his BTCC class, a strong weekend for Smith and Warren Scott’s best ever BTCC weekend with a brace of 9th place finishes. Goff was also in the points all weekend.
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
As per usual: very reliable, 3 races, 3 finishes, no points.
STP Racing with Sopp & Sopp – Proton Persona
Back to being a terrible weekend with the cars not finishing one race between them.
Laser Tools Racing / RML – Chevrolet Cruze
Moffat’s 18th birthday weekend was met with a brace of 17th place finishes and an 18th.
AmD Tuning.com – Ford Focus ST MKIII
Not the greatest of days for Newsham with just a couple of points in the final race his only reward.
United Autosports – Toyota Avensis
No Glynn Geddie due to a drink driving charge – which he denies. James Cole had a massive hit from Robb Holland in the final race, but before that it was two 19ths. Luke Hines came back into the series and had a couple of 20ths and a retirement. Closely matched then.
Power Maxed Racing – Chevrolet Cruze
23, 22, 21 which at that rate means he’ll win a race in 20 races. No, no he won’t.
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class
A shame that he had a problem in the first race after looking strong, but recovered well in the others.
Houseman Racing – Toyota Avensis
Not a great weekend for Lea Wood.
AlcoSense Breathalysers Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
Not a great weekend for Hunter with problems all weekend long.
Exocet Racing / Rob Austin Racing – Audi A4
A quiet weekend for Rob in all honesty.
Rotek Racing – Audi S3 Saloon
Robb Holland’s last race of the season ended in a big shunt, but hopefully he’ll be back next year. We’ll be seeing Tony Gilham in the S3 next time out.
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis
An interesting weekend for Ingram, but little to show for it.
Next up: The grand finale; Brands Hatch GP, 12th October.