Plato closes gap on Neal in BTCC thriller

The Silverline Chevrolet cars in action at Oulton Park at the weekend.

THRILLS, spills, drama and controversy made for a thrilling day out at the races at Cheshire’s Oulton Park.
Regular rain showers added to the mix, causing vital tyre choice dilemmas for the teams, but the Silverline Chevrolet team collected an important tally of points from the day’s three races, putting them firmly back in the hunt for this year’s title, but despite being handed a win on a plate by the Honda team, Chevrolet’s reigning British Touring Car champion Jason Plato couldn’t hide his frustration when he was interviewed by Louise Goodman minutes after clambering out of his car after the second race of the day.
Plato called on the Dunlop MSA BTCC organisers to ensure a fairer playing field for the remaining six rounds of the season, after his Chevrolet had no answer to the charging Hondas – powered by turbo engines.
Honda drivers Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden were virtually home and dry with an impressive one-two finish, but Neal decided to try and snatch victory from his team-mate on the last lap, lauching his car alongside Shedden’s as he turned in, the two connected firmly, and slid off into the gravel, leaving Plato to take the win.
Plato’s team-mate Alex MacDowall took a solid second and third position in race one to strengthen the RML-built Silverline Chevrolet cars’ championship chances.
In race one, Plato and MacDowall climbed from fourth and seventh on the grid respectively to come home second and third overall.
Speaking after the race, Plato said: “It’s great to have the points in the bag as we’ve worked really hard for them, but the BTCC series organisers need to take a long hard look at the parity they promised between turbo and non-turbo cars at the start of the season. It’s not racing when a more powerful car can sail past us on the straights, and we were promised at the start of the season that this wouldn’t be the case.
“It’s not fair on the teams that invest so much time and money into trying to win the championship, but more importantly it’s not fair on the fans, who turn up to race meetings or watch at home on the TV, as they want to see close, hard-fought racing.”
The Chevrolet team is now back in contention for the manufacturers/constructors championship, just 27 points behind Honda with 18 races and six meetings remaining this season.
Plato trails championship leader Matt Neal by 12 points, while just 15 points separates the series’ top six drivers.
Neal leaves Oulton still ahead in the standings but by the much reduced margin of two points from Shedden with Jackson just another five adrift. Just 15 points – equivalent to a race win – cover the first six in the championship.
Matt Neal said: “I’ve no idea how I’m still in front. Today has been a bit of a shocker and Gordon would have been quite justified in taking a swipe at me after race two – it was a dumb move on my part. But everyone else has tripped up somewhere along the line today so I’m a bit lucky.”
Gordon Shedden added: “The incident with Matt was just one of those things – there’s no way he intended for that outcome so there’s no point jumping up and down about it. I still managed to keep going and get across the line in sixth and took another good points haul in race three. I’m right back in the title hunt which is the most important thing.”
Matt Jackson commented: “Things didn’t go our way at all in races one and two but we’re a tough little team and when I was drawn on pole for race three we knew we had a chance. It’s testament to the team and the Focus that we were able to keep Gordon at bay as the Honda seems to be the car to beat at the moment.”
The BTCC moves to Croft, North Yorkshire, on Sunday June 19.