Jason Plato, Gordon Shedden and Mat Jackson were the winners of today’s three highly-charged Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the new Snetterton 300 circuit while erstwhile points leader Matt Neal suffered an event to forget. And it is Warwickshire racer Jackson who leaves the Norfolk venue as the new championship leader as the title race heads to second-placed Shedden’s home circuit of Knockhill, Fife in four weeks’ time (Sunday 4 September).
Oxford’s Plato won the first race from pole position in his Chevrolet Cruze but only after a controversial clash with Neal at the first bend that sent the Honda driver into a costly spin. Alex MacDowall took second to cement a dream 1-2 result for the Silverline Chevrolet team ahead of Shedden in third. After qualifying a lowly 13th on Saturday, Jackson came through to finish sixth.
Scotsman Shedden won race two in his Honda Civic to move past Neal and into the championship lead. Keeping his title hopes alive, Newport Pagnell’s James Nash was second in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra ahead of Plato in third. Jackson was sixth again to move into second in the standings ahead of Worcestershire’s Neal who suffered more woes, this time with a punctured tyre.
Jackson then won race three in his Airwaves Racing Ford Focus ahead of a feisty Paul O’Neill in his GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed Chevrolet and Plato who took another third to make it podium results in all three of today’s races. Neal finally put points on the board with a stunning charge from 17th to fourth but Shedden was only seventh after damaging his Honda.
As a result, Jackson, for the first time in his career, now leads the BTCC ahead of Shedden, Neal, today’s biggest points-scorer Plato and Nash. Just 31 points cover these five. Furthermore, Jackson becomes the fifth different driver this season to lead the championship.
Jackson from Henley in Arden said: “I’m delighted but it’s way too early to think about titles. Just look how quickly fortunes have changed today and we’ve still got four events – that’s twelve races – to go. You have to remember we’re privateers taking on the bigger budget Honda and Chevrolet teams and maybe it’s starting to niggle them – I’m already beginning to sense a bit of mind games! Between now and Knockhill I’ll be busy renovating the house I’ve just bought with a big lump hammer to take my mind off things…”
Having also tasted the championship lead for the first time earlier today Shedden, from Dalgety Bay, Fife added: “It’s absolutely game on from here on in, isn’t it? Two more podiums have obviously kept me right in the hunt and it’s given me even more reason to look forward to racing in front of my home crowd at Knockhill.”
Former double Champion Neal, from Droitwich, commented: “That’ll go down as one of the worst days at the office in all my years in the BTCC – a proper stinker and all the knock-on effect of what happened with Jason at the start of race one. But I enjoyed the run to fourth in race three and it’s at least good to come away with something positive.”
Plato, the reigning Champion, said: “To have arrived here 40 points behind Matt and to be leaving just ten behind him is mission accomplished for us today. We took some big risks in qualifying to get the pole – we had to – and it’s paid off really well.”
There were several other star performances at Snetterton. Frank Wrathall achieved the first-ever top ten finish for a car built to the BTCC’s latest Next Generation Touring Car technical regulations with a fourth place in race one in his Dynojet team’s Toyota Avensis. Dave Newsham also shone with three top ten finishes in his Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon. Newcomer Daniel Welch showed encouraging pace on his and the Welch Motorsport team’s first appearance in the BTCC with its all-new Proton Gen-2. So too did Martin Byford, also making his BTCC debut in the AmD Milltek Racing.com team’s VW Golf.
Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Racing Team continue to lead the Manufacturer/Constructor and HiQ Teams championships but by a reduced margin over Chevrolet/RML and Silverline Chevrolet respectively. Jackson has extended his lead in the Independent drivers’ standings as has Airwaves Racing in the Independent teams’ table, with Nash and 888 Racing with Collins Contractors rising to become their respective nearest challengers.
Elsewhere, Jason Plato was fined £500 by BTCC officials for his involvement in the incident with Matt Neal in race one. He also had three penalty points applied to his competition licence. Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Racing Team had ten points deducted from their Manufacturer/Constructor and HiQ Teams championship scores for exceeding their engine allocation. Similarly Dynojet in the HiQ Teams and Independent Teams standings.
2011 Dunlop BTCC Drivers’ Points after Snetterton (round 6 of 10):
1. Mat Jackson, 158pts
2. Gordon Shedden, 150
3. Matt Neal, 148
4. Jason Plato, 138
5. James Nash, 127
6. Andrew Jordan, 113
7. Alex MacDowall, 73
8. Robert Collard, 67
9. Tom Chilton, 66
10. Paul O’Neill, 54
1. Honda/Dynamics, 367
2. Chevrolet/RML, 323
3. Arena/Ford, 248
HiQ Teams’ Points:
1. Honda Racing Team, 266
2. Silverline Chevrolet, 200
3. Airwaves Racing, 152
4. 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 138
5. Pirtek Racing, 124
6. WSR, 95
Independent Drivers’ Points:
1. Mat Jackson, 195
2. James Nash, 176
3. Andrew Jordan, 153
4. Tom Chilton, 108
5. Robert Collard, 105
6. Paul O’Neill, 93
Independent Teams’ Points:
1. Airwaves Racing, 199
2. 888 Racing with Collins Contractors, 185
3. Pirtek Racing, 168
4. Team Aon, 132
5. WSR, 131
6. GoMobileUK.com with tech-speed, 111
*All points remain provisional