Gordon Shedden, Matt Neal and Jason Plato shared the race wins in today’s three spectacular Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the high speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire. As a result it is Worcestershire’s Neal, this year seeking a third BTCC Drivers’ crown, who leads the points table as the championship now heads to the picturesque Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire for its next three races of 2011 on Sunday 5 June.
From pole position, Scottish ace Shedden’s Honda Racing Team Civic (pictured) led home the sister car of Neal in Thruxton’s first race as Lichfield youngster Andrew Jordan took third in his Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra. But reigning Champion Plato’s recent run of bad luck continued – following a dramatic roll at Donington Park two weeks earlier he crashed out of the race at 100mph with a flat tyre on his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze.
In race two Neal was unstoppable as he took a clear victory – his third of the season – ahead of Jordan and Shedden. But a penalty later dropped Jordan to third behind Shedden meaning the Honda team could celebrate its second 1-2 result of the day.
Oxford’s Plato then led all the way to win race three. For the second event in a row his mechanics had rebuilt his battered car and this time he rewarded them with a victory ahead of the Airwaves Racing Ford Focus of Warwickshire’s Mat Jackson and the SEAT Leon of Preston’s Tom Boardman who achieved his and his small Special Tuning Racing team’s first outright podium result in third.
But it is Neal who leaves Thruxton with a 12-point lead at the top of the championship from Jackson. James Nash, who had led the standings going into today in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra, is now third ahead of Jordan, Shedden and Plato.
Droitwich Spa racer Neal said: “We’ve had a great day – a pair of 1-2 results for Honda plus a bucketful of points at what in the past has been a bit of a bogey track for me. We’re flying at the moment and we need to because it is starting to get very, very competitive at the front. We need to keep banging in the results because it isn’t going to go all our way at every event.”
Henley-in-Arden’s Jackson, who also leads the Independent drivers’ standings from Nash and Jordan, added: “Finishing on the podium in race three was vital as it had been a bit of a tough day for us up until that point. We keep picking up the points and we’re still very much in touch at the top of the table which is what it’s all about at this stage.”
Newport Pagnell’s Nash, who like Jackson has finished every race so far in the points, commented: “I’d never raced a car with a roof on it here before and so was playing catch-up a bit during the weekend. But we’ve still taken a healthy dose of points, including a fourth place in race three, and it’s important to keep that going. Different circuits will favour different cars and it could swing back in our favour at the next one.”
Unsurprisingly, Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Racing Team have extended their respective leads in the BTCC’s Manufacturers/Constructors and HiQ Teams championships. Airwaves Racing, meanwhile, has leapfrogged both Pirtek Racing and 888 Racing with Collins Contractors to take over the Independent Teams championship lead.
Elsewhere, a number of drivers were punished at Thruxton for on-track indiscretions: Race 2, Andrew Jordan, 1.3s time penalty and loss of one place; Race 2, Alex MacDowall, officially reprimanded and 2 penalty points on his competition licence; Paul O’Neill, officially reprimanded and 2 penalty points (from Donington Park).