Neal wins as Plato hits trouble in opening Silverstone race
|By Kevin Turner||Sunday, October 16th 2011, 11:32 GMT|
Matt Neal has moved a step closer to the 2011 British Touring Car Championship with victory in race one at Silverstone today as title rival Jason Plato was hobbled by a puncture.
Neal's Honda Civic led from pole as Liam Griffin and Rob Austin touched, causing Austin's Audi to spin across the track and hit Ollie Jackson's Triple Eight Vauxhall Vectra. Tony Gilham's new turbocharged Geoff Steel BMW was also involved and, with cars littering the track, the safety car was scrambled.
Neal and the chasing Mat Jackson (Motorbase Ford Focus) made good restarts, pulling a small gap over the second Honda of Gordon Shedden.
Shedden closed on the battling lead duo and shadowed them as Jackson probed for a way by Neal. The Ford could find no chink in Neal's armour and Jackson was denied a well-deserved podium when he suffered a right-front puncture with less than three laps to go.
That not only handed Honda a one-two, but also meant James Nash secured the Independents crown in third overall. The Triple Eight driver had run fourth for much of the race, under pressure from Tom Chilton until the Arena Ford driver was handed a drive-through penalty for not respecting the track limits.
Plato had been in the battle behind and was under pressure from the Arena cars of Andy Neate and Tom Onslow-Cole when he slowed with a left-front puncture before half-distance.
Onslow-Cole then overtook his team-mate to secure a fine fourth from 11th on the grid.
Alex MacDowall was the top normally aspirated runner in fifth, just ahead of Dave Newsham (Special Tuning Racing SEAT Leon) and Andrew Jordan's Eurotech Vectra. Despite clashing, the duo came through well from 13th and 12th respectively on the grid.
Plato's non-score means that he is now 22 points behind leader Matt Neal with only 34 left on offer. Shedden is the only other driver in with a chance, 10 points behind Neal.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Matt Neal Honda 26m36.253s 2. Gordon Shedden Honda + 0.206 3. James Nash Vauxhall + 3.818 4. Tom Onslow-Cole Ford + 7.078 5. Alex MacDowall Chevrolet + 10.282 6. Dave Newsham SEAT + 11.335 7. Andrew Jordan Vauxhall + 13.525 8. Rob Collard BMW + 16.333 9. Andy Neate Ford + 16.581 10. Frank Wrathall Toyota + 16.601 11. Daniel Welch Proton + 21.391 12. Tom Chilton Ford + 23.151 13. Nick Foster BMW + 24.045 14. John George Chevrolet + 33.407 15. Liam Griffin Ford + 33.564 16. Ollie Jackson Vauxhall + 33.772 17. Jeff Smith Vauxhall + 50.020 18. Lea Wood Honda + 51.063 19. Tony Hughes Toyota + 53.943 20. Mat Jackson Ford + 54.500 21. Chris James Chevrolet + 1 Lap 22. Chris Swanwick Audi + 2 Laps Retirements: Driver Car Laps Tom Boardman SEAT 20 Martin Byford Volkswagen 20 Jason Plato Chevrolet 19 Paul O'Neill Chevrolet 16 James Thompson Ford 2 Rob Austin Audi 0 Tony Gilham BMW 0