Jason Plato, Matt Neal and Mat Jackson were the winners of today’s eventful British Touring Car races at Knockhill.
The first race of the day was pole-sitter Plato’s 500th BTCC start, and he grabbed the perfect result with a commanding lights-to-flag victory. His dominating performance emphasised the increasingly strong pace of his BMR Racing Subaru Levorg, although his race wasn’t without its challenges.
Not only did the 95-time race winner have a safety car period to contend with, but his mirrors were also filled with the BMW 1 Series of late charger Jack Goff. Goff trimmed Plato’s lead to cross the line just five tenths down on the winner, with Colin Turkington only a further five tenths back from that in the sister Levorg.
Despite his perfect result, Plato remained calm after the race and reflected on the passing of such a large milestone. “Before this weekend I wasn’t getting caught up in any of the numbers,” he said. “You cast your mind back to where it all started – struggling in single-seaters with no money and doorstepping Sir Frank Williams. Five hundred races later and we’re still winning.”
Race two saw Matt Neal storm through from eighth on the grid, taking advantage of tussling leaders in the Subarus and BMWs to slip through the order. Once in front, the Honda Civic-driving Halfords Yuasa racer managed to eke out a 1.2sec lead over second-placed driver Sam Tordoff in his BMW 125i M Sport, while Jason Plato crossed the line 2.3sec off first in the Levorg.
Neal was delighted to have won race two from his mid-field starting position. “I thought we’d have a chance one minute, then I thought we’d have absolutely no chance," he said after the race. "I got up behind Jason [Plato] and he was playing with Sam [Tordoff], then Jason really seemed to start to struggle with tyres. That gave me the opportunity to pounce.”
Race three winner Mat Jackson managed to hold off a train of chasing cars in his Motorbase Ford Focus, crossing the line just 1.2sec ahead of fourth place.
It was Sam Tordoff in his BMW that posed the biggest threat to Jackson’s lead, and the Team JCT600 with GardX driver crossed the line just a couple of tenths behind the rear bumper of the winning Focus. But while Tordoff and Plato, along with Halfords Yuasa Racing's Gordon Shedden fought hard and made several attempts to trade places, Jackson defended effectively to grab his fourth win of the season.
“That was mega,” said Jackson. “He [Tordoff] wasn’t going to get that win off me. I was determined it would be ours. A rear-wheel-drive car around Knockhill is hard to beat.
“It was a tough battle. We had the legs in sector one but he was quicker with traction through the back straight, Clarke, and out of the hairpin. He drove a good race and fair play to him for the way he went about it.”
Championship leader Rob Collard’s day wasn’t a successful one, with a fifth place his best result leaving Sam Tordoff to inherit the lead with Matt Neal taking second. Just 32 points seperate the top three drivers, however, confirming that the 2016 season title is still all to play for.
The BTCC circus heads to Rockingham for the next three rounds of the 2016 season on the weekend of 27/28 August.
We're pleased to offer five lucky winners the chance to win a pair of tickets to the Rockingham event. What's more, one of the pairs of tickets will come with a VIP race experience which includes a grid walk, garage tour and the opportunity to watch the race from the garage of your favourite team.