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Jason Plato win heats up championship battle

Jason Plato took victory in the first British Touring Car Championship race at Brands Hatch – as his two main title rivals Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal both suffered punctures and failed to score.

Plato was unchallenged at the front for the entire race, with his team-mate Alex MacDowall following him around in second for the majority of the race until losing out to Jackson on the penultimate lap.

Click here for the full Round 25 results.

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At the start of the race James Nash got a poor start, allowing Neal to jump into third, behind MacDowall who had also got past the Triple Eight driver. Mat Jackson moved into fifth, passing Shedden before the first corner. The Honda driver had immediately begun to pressure Jackson when on lap 5 he dipped a rear wheel onto the grass and slid wide off the circuit at Graham Hill bend, allowing a number of cars through and dropping down to ninth.

Neal had been running in a comfortable third when he suffered a front-left puncture on lap 10, dropping the former champion completely out of contention. The race went from bad to worse for Honda when lap 14 Shedden suffered an identical failure and dropped out of contention. They eventually finished 18th and 19th and the advantage both drivers shared in the championship over Plato, which stood at 24 points prior to the race, has instantly been slashed to just 6 points.

The dramas facing the Honda’s allowed Jackson to move up the order and he passed MacDowall for second on the penultimate lap. MacDowall held on to finish in third, taking his third podium finish of the season.

After his poor start, Nash never really got going in the race and could only finish fourth, unable to challenge the leading cars. Benefitting fomr the troubles of others around him, Tom Onslow-Cole finished in fifth and took his best result of the year. Paul O’Neill was sixth, having spent the latter stages of the race battling with the Team Aon driver in front.

Having started in 13th, Rob Collard had a consistent race to finish in eighth. In fact, with the BMW’s known to be much kinder to their tyres in hot weather (the track temperature was 39 degrees) Collard will be a strong candidate for a podium finish in the two races to follow.

Andy Neate made it three Team Aon cars in the points for only the second time this season, whilst Nick Foster completed a superb drive from 20th on the grid to take the final point in tenth.

Dynojet’s Frank Wrathall had been battling hard with Rob for the tenth when the two made contact on lap 14. The contact damaged the rear suspension on Wrathall’s Toyota, pitching him off the road and lightly into the barriers.

“With two laps to go I passed Collard but he then just steered into me,” said Wrathall afterwards. “He kept doing so until he broke something in the Toyota’s rear suspension. The only reason I spun and went around as quick as I did was because he’s broken the rear link.”

Also failing to finish was Tom Boardman, who appeared to suffer the same fate as the Honda duo earlier in the race. His team-mate Dave Newsham also had an unlucky race and he pulled off the circuit half way through with steam bellowing from his SEAT.

Andrew Jordan’s race was over before it had started – after his third front-row qualifying performance of the season the Pirtek Racing star suffered mechanical troubles that prevented him lining up on the grid. The race only got worse for Pirtek Racing, with Jeff Smith also failing to finish.

The second race takes place at 14:15.

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