Jason Plato

BTCC 2017 | Knockhill – What did we learn?

The annual trip to Scotland produced three entertaining races, helped by more incidents of dubious driving standards. The series left Knockhill with a new leader at the top of the standings, but what else did we learn?

2017 BTCC Knockhill

Colin Turkington now leads the way following a hat-trick of thirds from Ash Sutton, while the former leader, Gordon Shedden, sits third and twelve points off top. Saturday’s qualifying saw a Subaru 1-2 with Jason Plato finally producing what we’ve come to expect of him, just ahead of the championship charging Sutton.

Plato duly converted his 50th pole position into a 96th BTCC victory and incredibly his first since the opening race at Knockhill twelve months ago. Although Sutton raced hard, and after a failed switch to try to gain an extra point for leading a lap, this race deservedly belonged to Plato. Their challengers, Turkington and Rob Collard, were a small gap behind the top two, but miles ahead of the rest of the field, which were headed by James Cole, who achieved a career best hat-trick of fifths over the weekend.

2017 BTCC Knockhill

The Subaru dominance continued in the second race, although the drivers switched finishing positions, further enhancing Sutton’s title credentials, while the three behind remained the same as before. The main talking point of the second race came within the first twenty seconds as a large crash, triggered by Andrew Jordan, wiped out several drivers. Jordan out-braked himself which meant he rammed Matt Neal, who in turn went into Senna Proctor who then collected Jordan. A few others had to take evasive action and ended up in the gravel trap, ruining their races too.

It was good to see Jordan admit his mistake afterwards, although it didn’t save him from a hefty fine and penalty points on his licence. Jordan has never shown championship form since winning the title in 2013 and this was a poor mistake. A championship challenge isn’t helped by moving teams each year, but he just doesn’t look as formidable as he was once.

However, the Subarus at Knockhill certainly looked formidable. In the second race, all four were inside the top seven – quite incredible. Just why did they go so well? Sutton’s looked great all season, but the other three have been nowhere to be seen. In Scotland, real wheel drive power was a huge advantage as the top five in the first two races were all powered from the rear. But then, why weren’t the BMWs seriously challenging? This could be down to the Subarus’ boxer engine which allows for a better centre of gravity and on a circuit such as Knockhill, this extra edge could well have been the difference. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Knockhill – Reviewed and Rated

The annual trip to Scotland produced some fantastic racing, especially amongst the front runners, which hopefully now means we can forget about the driving standards furore of Snetterton.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) BTCCThree of the most experienced drivers on the grid came to the fore with a win apiece, demonstrating outstanding defensive driving and a classic charge through the field. At the front, consistency was the key for Sam Tordoff as he regained the championship lead from Rob Collard.

Race One (1st Plato, 2nd Goff, 3rd Turkington)
Jason Plato started his 500th BTCC race from pole position after an incredibly tight qualifying session. Tom Ingram took 2nd ahead of Tordoff, Jack Goff, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The championship leader, Collard, once again qualified poorly, down in 18th.

As the lights went out, the top 6 all got away well from the line, but there were echoes of Snetterton at the third corner as Matt Neal barged Adam Morgan off the track, which left Morgan well down the pack and Neal with a post-race verbal warning. This allowed the top 6 to pull out a gap on the rest of the field. Jordan was looking competitive in the opening laps and he was soon ahead of Turkington after a sweet move at the hairpin, but Turkington kept pace and re-took the position mid-race.

Ingram found himself under immense pressure from Tordoff and Goff, before the pair switched positions over the start-finish line. Goff continued his pursuit of Ingram and after a long, late lunge on the brakes into the hairpin, he succeeded in taking 2nd. Tordoff then set about Ingram too, but his challenge was halted by a safety car to recover Warren Scott’s stricken Subaru following an incident with Dan Welch.2016 BTCC Knockhill (C) Subaru UKAfter the safety car period ended, it was a quick sprint to the finish, but it was just enough time for Turkington to make a couple of brilliant moves to jump from 5th to 3rd. His first victim was Tordoff, who was almost overtaken by Jordan too, and then Ingram at the hairpin. However, it was Turkington’s teammate, Plato, who celebrated his 500th race with his 95th victory and he also became the 11th different winner of the season, equalling the BTCC season record. (more…)

BTCC 2016 – Croft | Photo Gallery

The British Touring Car Championship made the annual trip to the North East, and ESM’s BTCC Correspondent was on hand as usual. Whilst we wait for the words, he’s sent a selection of photos for us to enjoy first.2016 Croft BTCC

As you’ll probably discover, our BTCC Correspondent made the most of the pit lane walkabout to get up close and personal with the drivers. And their grid girls. But there’s race action in there too, we promise.

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BTCC 2015 – Brands Hatch GP | Reviewed and Rated

After months of close racing, the 2015 British Touring Car Championship came down the wire to decide who would be the winner. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent sums it all up.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch GPGordon Shedden did his best to lose a 23 point advantage going in to Brands Hatch, but he managed to just hold on to take his second British Touring Car Championship. Shedden naturally took all the headlines, but once again Mat Jackson was seriously impressive with two race victories and a second place.

It was Jackson who completed a hat-trick of pole positions, albeit with no weight. Aron Smith lined up second, Adam Morgan third, Shedden fourth, Colin Turkington fifth and Shedden’s nearest challenger Jason Plato, sixth. Race One was a non-event despite a safety car to rescue Stewart Lines’ stricken car, a big smash for Alex Martin and an amazing overtake from Aiden Moffat on Hunter Abbott via the grass. Jackson strolled home over the line with Smith and Morgan remaining second and third. The BMR duo of Turkington and Plato had jumped Shedden, but a point here and there wasn’t going to make any difference.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch GPRace Two however, provided the set up to the final drama. Tom Ingram got a great start off the line as Smith bogged down, but Jackson once again established a sizeable early race lead. However, the safety car was needed at the end of lap one as a tank slapper from Martin Depper across the front of Rob Austin resulted in a sizeable collision. By lap 8, Shedden had actually slipped a little down the pack from his high teens starting position to 16th, but at the front it was much closer than the opening race with Jackson suffering from soft tyres and full ballast. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Rockingham | Reviewed and Rated

As the 2015 British Touring Car Championship heads into Autumn, the action at Rockingham has set up a two-way fight for the title. ESM’s BTCC Correspondent analyses it all.

BTCC 2015 RockinghamGordon Shedden now leads the British Touring Car Championship by 6 points following the latest rounds at Rockingham. Shedden had a superb weekend with a 1st, 2nd and 8th while previous leader Jason Plato was left struggling after 3 cars into 1 corner didn’t go, in the opening race, leaving him playing catch-up. It’s been a poor couple of rounds for Plato following dramas at Knockhill last time out too and Shedden has taken full advantage. However, the momentum may have turned back in Plato’s favour as a final race victory ensured he left Rockingham with only a 6 point deficit, having been 20 behind after race two.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

It’s hard to see Andrew Jordan winning from 5th in the championship now, as he’s 46 points down and while Matt Neal and reigning champ Colin Turkington are 27 and 33 points down respectively, it would seem very unlikely that Shedden and Plato would both drop that many points to allow them a sniff of silverware. I have said for a long time now that the title will be between Shedden and Plato, with me slightly favouring Plato, and I still have no reason to change that opinion.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

Rockingham’s entertainment value grew as the day progressed with a modest first race, a second race that came alive at the end and a highly entertaining final race. The first race was deservedly won by Mat Jackson who controlled the race throughout for a lights to flag victory. It is astonishing that Jackson found himself at the front of the grid with Motorbase’s first ever Saturday pole position. Motorbase’s cars have generally performed so well over the years; it is hard to fathom how they haven’t had a pole before. Following Knockhill, I commented on how impressed I was with this Focus package and after another strong display, goodness knows where Jackson would have been in the standings had he competed in the opening 15 races of the season. He already has 105 points from just 9 races. I’m not saying Jackson would be challenging Plato or Shedden for the outright title, but I’m sure he would have been in the top 6 mix, easily.

BTCC 2015 Rockingham

While Jackson is perhaps classed as an ‘old’ pro in the BTCC now, I find I’m regularly commenting on some of the younger drivers after each set of races. This time is no different as I once again praise Josh Cook and Tom Ingram. Cook had an amazing charge through the field in the second race as the action climaxed at the end, with Cook taking the last podium position from Adam Morgan at pretty much the final corner on the last lap of the race. Ingram has shown flashes of brilliance this year, but I’ve often found he’s ended up finishing further down than his performance has deserved. Not on Sunday. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Snetterton | Reviewed and Rated

The British Touring Car Championship returned to action on Sunday, following the mid-season break, at Snetterton and it continued the entertainment seen at Croft in the previous round. Our BTCC Correspondent gives us the low down.

BTCC 2015 Snetterton

Colin Turkington re-ignited his title challenge following a disastrous weekend for Honda’s Gordon Shedden who relinquished top spot to the ever-green Jason Plato. Shedden’s poor weekend started when he qualified in 16th following mechanical issues. Shedden only managed to score 3 points all weekend, and one of those was for fastest lap having pitted in the final race. However, qualifying couldn’t have gone any better for Team BMR and their Volkswagens as they secured a 1-2-3 led by Turkington who was followed home by Aron Smith and Plato. Team BMR were sporting a new livery this weekend following sponsorship from RCIB Insurance and the 4th placed man, Andrew Jordan, also had a different looking, shiny silver, car after securing a long-term sponsorship deal with Pirtek. Matt Neal took 5th and Andy Priaulx took 6th.

The returning Mat Jackson took 14th and James Cole was further down as Motorbase and the Ford Focus returned to the series after missing the first half of the season with sponsorship issues. Support our Paras Racing will be missing a car for the rest of the season after a failed sponsorship deal for Max Coates and they’ve already used up their changes of drivers this season. There was also a return for Robb Holland as he replaced Simon Belcher and there was a BTCC debut for Barry Horne, who replaced Alex Martin following the birth of his first child.

BTCC 2015 Snetterton

Race One saw Turkington get away well from the line as the top drivers stayed in position. Rob Collard was soon in trouble as he was rammed from behind by his teammate Sam Tordoff and he was not the only one to experience early drama, as there were also spins for Rob Austin and Jeff Smith. Turkington looked at ease as early as the fourth lap, the longest lap of the BTCC season incidentally. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Croft | Reviewed and Rated

With the British Touring Car Championship at ESM’s home circuit, there was never any doubt as to whether we would be in attendance. But, would it be a Sunday to remember, or another snooze-fest like Oulton Park? Our BTCC Correspondent tells the story below:

BTCC 2015 Croft Race One Podium

After Oulton Park, things could only get better for the BTCC and they certainly did at a BMW dominated Croft. There was a win apiece for each of the WSR members and a historic 1-2-3 for the team in the opening race. The championship lead has changed hands following the weekend’s action and Gordon Shedden heads the way into the summer break. However, it was the return of ‘racing’ that meant it was a good day for BTCC fans.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Race One saw the winner from last time out on pole, Sam Tordoff, followed by his teammate Andy Priaulx, Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard, Colin Turkington and Matt Neal. The championship leader going into the weekend, Jason Plato, was down in 12th. Unbelievably, it was the first time since Silverstone 2006 that Plato hadn’t qualified in the top 10. By my rough calculations, that’s about 90 meetings which I find astonishing. However, Plato wasn’t happy with his position and he came up with a cunning plan, within the rules, to set himself up for a better weekend.

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough weekend

2013 Champion Andrew Jordan had a tough time at Croft

Plato came into the pits at the end of the green flag lap to re-join the race from the pit lane in clear air to set a fast lap for a good grid position in the second race. Another advantage of his plan was that he’d lose his weight as well, leaving him with a good grid positon and no weight. You could say his plan worked as he ended up third for the second race. However, we can, of course, question the morality of it all. Technically, he did nothing wrong, it was within the rules, but do we want drivers doing this every weekend? No, definitely not. As a one off, I think we can just about justify it and hope that Alan Gow can find a way to stop this loophole.

BTCC 2015 Croft

Rob Austin had his best weekend for what seems a very long time.

Race One saw Tordoff get away cleanly as the BMWs roared into the first 3 positions in a race that started under dark clouds. However, on lap 6, Priaulx was able to take the lead from Tordoff with a move up the inside of him at Tower. Priaulx held on for the race win and was followed home by Tordoff and Collard after the latter failed in his bid to get past Tordoff despite good pressure. It was amazing to see an all WSR podium! (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Thruxton | Reviewed and Rated

EngageSportMode’s BTCC Correspondent returns with his take on all the action, or lack of, from Thruxton.

BTCC 2015 - Thruxton 00

A year ago, ESM visited Thruxton for not a particularly enjoyable experience and although ESM weren’t there in person this year, the action hardly set many viewing pulses racing. That’s not to say the racing was bad, it just wasn’t great, as we had three different winners.

Plenty of action happened before the races on Sunday. Infiniti Support Our Paras Racing have ditched Richard Hawken, after just one race meeting at Donington, and replaced him with ex-F1 driver Martin Donnelly. From driver changes to track changes at Thruxton… Following last year’s big smashes at Church involving Simon Belcher and Nick Foster, Thruxton have finally installed more substantial barriers at the corner and luckily they weren’t tested during the BTCC races this season.

However, there were plenty of damaged cars on Saturday. Dan Welch took no part on Sunday due to damage and Hunter Abbott sustained damage too, although he was able to race 24 hours later. Belcher must be wondering what Thruxton has against him, as he was unable to race after a big shunt with Mike Bushell in qualifying. Bushell was left on crutches following a leg injury and although Belcher was fine, his car was not. This meant that the grid started with a mere 25 cars for Race One.

BTCC 2015 - Thruxton 002

None of the races were particularly exciting; yes there were good parts and bad parts, but a fairly average weekend all in all. Aron Smith secured his first ever pole position, but he made an awful start (due to not seeing the lights because of his advertising strip on his windscreen) and the Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal powered through and stayed there for the duration. Smith was still having a strong race until the curse of Thruxton punctures struck, meaning he eventually finished 21st. Smith certainly had the pace to win and was showing great race craft with close racing, but it wasn’t to be. (more…)

BTCC 2015 – Brands Hatch Indy | Rated and Reviewed

After a long break, the British Touring Car Championship was back this weekend for the first rounds of the new season. What did our BTCC Correspondent make of proceedings? Read on for his views and driver ratings.

2015 BTCC Brands Hatch Indy 001

As the dust settles on the first BTCC weekend of the season, it has certainly raised a few interesting points. Matt Neal leads the championship, level on points with Jack Goff, from Aron Smith and Andy Priaulx after a Sunday that saw three different winners. Several sections of the media have described the action as ‘sensational’ and ‘brilliant.’ I wouldn’t go as far as that, solid, perhaps being a more apt adjective.

The Brands Hatch Indy Circuit has traditionally produced close racing and this weekend was no different. I will no doubt continue to complain every year until we don’t race on the Indy Circuit, but I just don’t enjoy a lap that is less than 50 seconds long with only 10 sections. There are other circuits out there that would be able to host a BTCC meeting, meaning we wouldn’t have to visit Brands twice, not that I have anything against Brands itself.

015 BTCC Brands Hatch Indy 003

Andy Priaulx might not have raced in the BTCC at Brands for many a year, but he has of course visited since his last BTCC visit. It was evident from his pole qualifying position and his subsequent performances that he’s not here to make up the numbers, but he’s going to be a title contender. Many people, me included, may not have had him in our immediate contender thoughts, but this has obviously changed over the weekend. It’s hardly surprising considering his record of racing BMW touring cars and the fact he’s in last year’s title winning machine. (more…)

2015 British Touring Car Championship Preview

After what seems like a very long winter, the British Touring Car Championship is finally back this weekend. With a huge grid and new faces, our resident BTCC Correspondent gives us his views on the season ahead.

BTCC 2015 – A few thoughts…

2015 BTCC Grid
The Easter weekend sees the return of the BTCC to the track and our television screens. Pre-season has, of course, been filled with many driver and team changes. However, with all the changes and a couple of major departures – drivers, sponsors and teams, I’ve found it hard to be excited about the coming season.

The 32-car grid is a great idea in principle, but the grid isn’t exactly filled with 32 household names, nor I suppose could it be. However, other than our usual main protagonists, the grid isn’t exactly filled with names that I’m going to be losing any sleep over with excitement. We’ve lost Alain Menu and Fabrizio Giovanardi in the close season, meaning we’re back down to 5 champions on the grid. Another notable absentee is Nick Foster, who despite never winning race, I actually quite liked.

eBay have withdrawn their sponsorship from WSR, which seems odd from an outsider’s point of view. The title-winning car from 2014 can’t retain their lead sponsor? Really? I’m not involved in either of the businesses, but I find it simply odd. Another baffling part of the BTCC jigsaw, 2014 champion Colin Turkington and runner-up Jason Plato seemingly taking so long to find a drive for the current season. They have since assured us their drives for the current season were never in doubt.

2015 BTCC Media Day tracking

What does excite me for this season is Turkington and Plato joining forces together at Team BMR. (more…)