Feature race: Plato crowned champ

Jason Plato is the new British Touring Car champion after a remarkable feature race in soaking wet conditions at Brands Hatch. Plato's Vauxhall tea mate Yvan Muller appeared to be quids in for the title when Plato spun off on the fourth lap, but engine dramas for the Frenchman put him out at two-thirds distance and swung the balance back in the Briton's favour

Feature race: Plato crowned champ

Meanwhile, Phil Bennett continued his rise to prominence by taking the third BTCC win of his career - and his first feature race success - in his Egg Sport Vauxhall.

Warren Hughes led the first three laps of the race from pole position in his MG, while Muller initially slipped to third behind Bennett before passing the rookie into Paddock Hill Bend at the beginning of lap two. Muller completed his charge to the front by passing Hughes into Paddock at the start of lap four. The MG man and team mate Anthony Reid then fell victim to electrical problems while the safety car was out.

The race had been neutralised after Production class title contender Roger Moen went off at Paddock and Steve Sutcliffe, charging in the Lexus, was biffed off after contact with the Alfa Romeos along Cooper Straight.

Plato was well back among the Production class cars when the race restarted, and there was little change in the order when the pit stops were completed. Muller therefore led from Bennett, Dan Eaves's Peugeot and Plato. The title would be the Frenchman's as long as Plato did not get up to second. But then came the drama which turned the title chase.

Muller's Vauxhall had flames emanating from beneath it, and he parked his car on Hailwood Hill, his title chase over."I had gone off at Surtees, probably on oil, but I only collected some grass - nothing special," he said. "Later I saw the water temperature going up and then the car stopped."

Plato the charged ahead of Eaves for second and predictably, was elated: "I'm so chuffed. I want to thank a million and one people - Frank Williams who gave me my first opportunity in touring cars, all the people at Vauxhall and all my family and friends. I've been a pain to be with for two months, but now I can go back to being my normal jovial self."

With only Tom Ferrier finishing out of the rest of the Touring class field, the battle for the Production class was for fifth overall. That changed hands on the penultimate lap when Gavin Pyper pulled off what he described as "a kamikaze move" into Graham Hill Bend to depose long-time leader Gareth Howell. The GA Janspeed Alfa man then set fastest lap on the final tour, despite the GR Ford looking to reassert itself. Great stuff.

Simon Harrison endured a nailbiting run to sixth in the race to clinch the title for the HTML Peugeot team. Team-mate Roger Moen, who was also in the title hunt, continued after his off at Paddock but was in driveshaft problems throughout - the legacy of the hurried rebuild after his sprint race shunt.



Phil Bennett (Egg Sport Vauxhall Astra Coupe) 55 laps in 59m54.469s
Jason Plato (Vauxhall Astra Coupe) +0.281s
Dan Eaves (Peugeot 406 Coupe) +7.016s
Tom Ferrier (JSM Alfa Romeo 147) +16.832s
P Gavin Pyper (GA Janspeed Alfa Romeo 156) +25.724s
P Gareth Howell (GR Ford Focus) +26.374s
P James Kaye (Barwell Honda Accord) +30.478s
P Simon Graves (Barwell Honda Accord) +30.864s
P Paul O'Neill (Techspeed Peugeot 306) +33.230s
0 P Simon Harrison (HTML Peugeot 306) +38.735s
Fastest laps Plato 55.474s
Pyper 57.544s
Points: 1 Plato 336; 2 Muller 318; 3 Thompson 276; 4 Bennett 173; 5 Eaves 115; 6 Soper 93; 7 Erdos 72; 8 Harvey 43; 9 Luby 33; 10 Ferrier 20. Production: 1 Harrison 227; 2 Kaye 220; 3 Moen 212; 4 Jackson 151; 5 Howell 139; 6 Pyper 120.

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