Feature race: Second Knockhill win for Plato

Jason Plato made it two out of two, a maximum points haul and a handy three-point championship lead with a comfortable win in round 14 of the British Touring Car Championship, the feature race at Knockhill

Feature race: Second Knockhill win for Plato

"It's been a mega weekend," said the happy Englishman. I've really hooked up with the car now and I don't see why we shouldn't carry on like this. Rock and roll."

Plato led away from pole and then consolidated his advantage as the feature turned into a race of attrition and his rivals dropped away. From the rolling start he took a narrow lead from works Vauxhall team mate Yvan Muller and Egg Astra men James Thompson and Phil Bennett.

Muller made his intentions felt early with a move at McIntyres on lap two. Gentle contact hindered the Frenchman though.

"I had to back off and James went past," admitted Muller.

In the meantime BTC production runner Colin Blair's Alfa 156 had been nudged into a roll on the start-finish straight and the safety car was deployed. With Tom Boardman's BTCP Peugeot 306 also in a dangerous place after a suspension collapse the safety car stayed out for nine laps.

On the restart Plato, Thompson and Muller led the way, followed by Bennett and Steve Soper in the only other remaining BTCT car. Dan Eaves Peugeot was too badly damaged in his sprint shunt to continue; the propshaft on Thomas Erdos' Lexus broke on lap two and Tom Ferrier's Alfa 147 suffered further oil pressure problems on the warm-up lap and didn't start.

On lap 18 Muller's Astra slowed and dropped behind first Bennett and then Soper. Two laps later the Frenchman pitted with failed power steering and with more than 20 laps still to run he decided to retire.

Thompson was the next to hit trouble. He was the first to pit and a problem with the front left wheel kept him stationary long enough to drop him behind Bennett. Any prospect of retrieving the position went west when his power steering also failed. Thommo kept at it though and was rewarded with a distant third place. The Yorkshireman reckoned, with a laugh, that his ability to carry on where Muller decided to stop was down simply to: 'superior body conditioning.'

That was it really for the race. Steve Soper's Peugeot stuck close to the Astras for a handful of early laps, but then dropped back and a slow pit stop meant no chance to challenge the ailing Thompson Astra. Fourth place for Soper.

In BTCP Gordon Shedden led almost all the way in the GR Motorsport Focus. Again his closest challenger was Simon Graves in the Barwell Honda. Again Graves moved up through the field to mount his challenge, but this time it went wrong. The move was at the hairpin again, but this time it resulted in heavy contact.

"I moved to protect my line, which I'm entitled to do," explained Shedden, "but he must have been so late on the brakes. He hit me really hard."

There was extensive body damage to both cars, but the Focus was able to carry on. Graves, after a few hundred metres in the lead, spun at Duffus Dip and soon pulled in to retire.

Second in class went to James Kaye who struggled with his set-up due to the success ballast. He was at least pleased to have come away with a fourth place and a second from the weekend and a continued points lead.

Title rival Simon Harrison was on a similar points-gathering exercise and he took two third places and two fastest lap points, to make the gap at the top just three.

Vauxhall has now lifted the manufacturers' title after just 14 of the 26 rounds of the championship.

"It proves what a fantastic and reliable car the Astra Coupe is, and what a great job the drivers have done this year," said Vauxhall motorsport boss Mike Nicholson, who also reinforced the fact that the gloves are off the drivers' points race. "They are now completely free to fight for their own championship."

Jason Plato (Vauxhall) 48m06.648s
Phil Bennett (Vauxhall) 48m13.206s
James Thompson (Vauxhall) 48m36.991s
Steve Soper (Peugeot) 48m48.139s
Gordon Shedden (Ford P) 44 laps
James Kaye (Honda P) 44 laps
Simon Harrison (Peugeot P) 44 laps
Robert Collard (Renault P) 44 laps
Jim Edwards Jr (Honda P) 44 laps
Roger Moen (Peugeot P) 44 laps

Jason Plato 179pts
YvanMuller 176
James Thompson 163
Phil Bennett 106
Steve Soper 61
DanEaves 48

James Kaye 134pts
Simon Harrison 131
Roger Moen 111
Mat Jackson 85
Gavin Pyper 66
Gareth Howell 56


Vauxhall, 484pts*
Peugeot 143
* - Champions

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