Feature race: Full marks for Plato

Jason Plato completed a Silverstone double in the British Touring Car Championship night races thanks to his own skill, a dodgy air jack and a gaffe by his works Vauxhall team

Feature race: Full marks for Plato

Plato was battling for the lead of a wet race with team mate Yvan Muller when the Frenchman lost stacks of time when his Astra Coupe could not be lifted from the ground for its compulsory tyre change, then was called in for a drive-through penalty because the Triple Eight crew had emerged onto the pit apron no less than 16 seconds too early.

Muller lost his pole position advantage when Plato completed a brave move to take the lead into Becketts on the first lap, but Muller was equally decisive in his counter-attack to spear inside Plato into Copse at the start of the second tour.

Muller then pulled away, while Plato outfumbled himself by accidentally selecting neutral and momentarily going off track at the Abbey hairpin, without losing second.

But as Muller's front tyres went off after a few laps, so his dreaded understeer returned, allowing Plato to close in. Then came the Alsatian's pit stop calamity, his Vauxhall stationary for 36 seconds.

He rejoined third, behind the Egg Sport Vauxhall of Phil Bennett, but then came the drive-through penalty, which he took without losing a place, even if it cost him any chance of catching Bennett.

"I'm fairly upset and it's frustrating," said Muller. "I spent long enough in the pits the first time and coming in twice was unnecessary. I don't care whose fault it is though. It's the team's fault and we're all part of the team and we all make mistakes. But still, we have to improve in times of stress."

Those dramas gave Plato an advantage of a few seconds over Bennett, which he stretched to the finish. "It's a shame about Yvan's dramas because it would have been a cracking race, but I'll take my good luck when it comes," he concluded.

Bennett did a good job to take his best ever BTCC result, but it enjoyed an element of fortune, as Muller and his Egg Sport team mate James Thompson were both hit by delays. Thompson's came at the very first corner of the race, when he was punted off by the Peugeot of Steve Soper, who himself claimed to have been hit.

Thompson recovered to fourth, while Kurt Luby was able to hang onto fifth in the Lexus from the recovering Soper. Dan Eaves retired the other Peugeot with mechanical problems, while Tim Harvey's Alfa failed to last a lap again, leaving the sister Alfa of Dave Pinkney as the other finisher.

If the overall race was dull beyond belief from the middle onwards, the Production class battle was a thriller throughout. Some great battling between Peugeot twins Simon Harrison and Roger Moen and James Kaye's Honda ended with victory for the Norwegian. He took the lead a couple of laps from home as Harrison's gearbox gradually fell to pieces, losing fifth gear
completely.

"My race with James was one of the best races I've ever had," said Moen, who was suffering with a misted up windscreen and could hardly see on left-handers. "It was fantastic. And as long as both cars stay on the circuit it's all fine."

Jason Plato (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 30 laps in 51m33.094s
Phil Bennett (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +11.786s
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +30.345s
James Thompson (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +52.183s
Kurt Luby (ABG Motorsport Lexus IS200) +1m24.345s
Steve Soper (Peugeot 406 Coupe) +1m29.076s
Dave Pinkney (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) +1m37.321s
Roger Moen P (HTML Peugeot 306) +1m37.517s
James Kaye P (Barwell Motorsport Honda Accord) +1m38.465s
Simon Harrison P (HTML Peugeot 306) +1m45.076s
Fastest lap Muller 1m40.498s
P= Production

Moen
Kaye
Harrison
Gareth Howell (GR Motorsport Ford Focus) -1 lap
Paul O'Neill (Techspeed Peugeot 306) -1 lap
Jim Edwards Jr (TCR Honda Accord) -1 lap
Fastest lap Gavin Pyper (GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo 156) 1m44.940s

Muller 108
Plato 99
Thompson 89
Bennett 66
Soper 30
Luby 29
Eaves 27
Harvey 16
Pinkney 14
Neal 11

Harrison 93
Kaye 75
Moen 64
Jackson & Howell 44
Pyper 37

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