Sprint race Plato pips Muller

Jason Plato overcame a poor start to blast past team mate Yvan Muller and win the 13th round of the British Touring Car Championship at Knockhill

Sprint race Plato pips Muller

Muller tried to stay in touch with Plato throughout the race, in the hope of getting a chance in traffic, but it never happened and the championship leader had to settle for second place. James Thompson was hard on Muller's heels for much of the distance, despite race-long brake problems, but when he lost time in traffic, he backed off and finished third.

"I wasn't happy after the start," admitted Plato, "but I wasn't worried because I knew I had the pace."

Muller conceded the point, which was further reinforced by a rare Plato/Muller no-contact overtaking move. The Frenchman said: "He was quicker from the beginning. I knew it would be tough to stay ahead for 20 laps. Then one lap I had a big oversteer coming out of the chicane and he took the opportunity to pass me into Clark."

Thereafter Plato pulled clear to give himself enough breathing space to allow caution while passing the production runners. A plan which worked well as Jason overhauled all but one of the BTCP field before the chequered flag.

Fourth place went to the mightily impressive Thomas Erdos Lexus. The Brazilian was another to fluff the start, but thereafter he drove a very strong race. The ABG Motorsport IS200 was the fastest car on the track in the closing laps and Erdos's fastest lap overall -set on the last lap - was just 0.249s off Plato's and very comfortably the closest anyone has got to the pace of the Vauxhalls all year.

Phil Bennett was the last of the BTC Touring finishers after another run-in with Steve Soper's Peugeot. Soper looked to have the Egg man beaten for pace, but when he made his move at the hairpin there was contact. Soper was out of the race, Bennett delayed and the only similarity in the explanations from the rival camps was that they were angry.

Dan Eaves locked up and crashed at Duffus Dip, while Tom Ferrier's Alfa lost a door after leaping the chicane and then retired with oil pressure problems. Eaves will miss the feature race.

Simon Graves was a delighted BTC Production winner in the Barwell Honda Accord, and he even made it to the chequered flag before Plato and co, to take the on-the-road win. Graves title-chasing team mate James Kaye made the best start and led initially before slipping behind poleman Gordon Shedden's GR Motorsport Ford Focus.

Shedden looked to have it sewn up as he pulled away and Kaye slipped back with brake problems. Graves though had other ideas. Once he'd given up any idea of shepherding Kaye to a win or second place, he moved ahead and closed in on Shedden.

"The car improves as the race goes on or it gets less worse than the others," explained Graves, who was also aware that his lack of success ballast played a part.

Shedden, who was also without extra weight, reckoned he'd pushed too hard early on. He said: "I just cooked the tyres, but at least I learned that in the sprint race and can hopefully re-structure for the feature."

It was nevertheless an impressive BTCC debut for the young Scot. Title battlers Simon Harrison and Kaye were third and fourth.

Simon Graves (Honda P) 19m30.059s
Jason Plato (Vauxhall) 19m31.267s
Gordon Shedden (Ford P) 19m31.326s
Yvan Muller (Vauxhall) 19m31.821s
Simon Harrison (Peugeot P) 19m35.425s
James Kaye (Honda P) 19m35.688s
James Thompson (Vauxhall) 19m37.937s
Thomas Erdos (Lexus) 19m39.658s
Phil Bennett (Vauxhall) 19m44.700s
Robert Collard (Renault P) 19m53.993s

Plato, 55.423s
Harrison, 57.608s

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