The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is wide open at the halfway point in the season, after a dramatic weekend at Croft saw mixed fortunes for the Silverline Chevrolet Team.
Jason Plato put in an impressive performance in race one, climbing his way from sixth on the grid to take a third-place podium finish. Team-mate Alex MacDowall started well in third, but dropped down to 13th overall thanks to accelerated tyre wear caused by an early incident.
Race two saw a three-way battle for the lead between Plato and the two Hondas, with Gordon Shedden taking outright victory after a thrilling race. Meanwhile, MacDowall thrilled the crowds, and the TV cameras, as he tried to pick his way through the midfield from 13th on the grid, demolishing two tyre walls and showing the crowd just how to bruise a Cruze, as he powered his way into the points, finishing 9th overall.
“I got into a big battle in the middle of the pack, and the only way to get through was to try and find the gaps. I kind of found them – I like to think I was just trying to keep the tyres cool,” said the Carlisle-based 19-year old.
The BTCC’s reverse grid system favoured eventual winner Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek car in the third race of the season, with Plato starting from fifth and MacDowall, whose car looked as good as new despite finishing the second race in a somewhat battered condition, starting from ninth.
Things looked good for Jason in the final race of the day, as he battled his way up to third on the first lap. But a puncture on lap three saw his Silverline-backed Cruze having to pit, putting him out of contention. Plato managed to put in a fastest lap on his return to the field, though, while Matt Neal suffered similar tyre misfortune – the trials and tribulations of an action-packed afternoon’s racing leaving the top two drivers in the championship exactly as they were before Croft with an eight-point gap – all to play for in the last five rounds of the season.
MacDowall, meanwhile, ensured the Silverline Chevrolet team acquired another point to help their title bid, bringing his Cruze home a solid 10th, despite being pushed around in the middle rankings.
With everything to run for at the halfway stage in the season, the Silverline Chevrolet team is hopeful of making serious headway in the second half of the season, in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles. Just one weekend’s racing could change the complete order in both championships.
“We took a bit of a penalty with the weight ballast today, which on a fast circuit like Croft meant we couldn’t exploit the car as much as we’d wished,” said Plato. “But we put in some good, solid races and some valuable points on the board – there’s a long way to go. It’s all shaping up nicely for an exciting second half of the season.”
The BTCC now takes a short summer break, with the next round at Snetterton, Norfolk, on Sunday August 8. In the meantime, for pictures of the action at Croft, a Father’s Day video featuring Jason, Alex and their Dads, and a host of other interactive features, visit www.chevroletbtcc.co.uk