Dunlop British Touring Car Championship fans had gone 42 days and nights without the UK’s premier motor racing series to keep them entertained, but after witnessing an action packed race weekend at Oulton Park, they can certainly say it was worth the wait.
Honda team-mates Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden shared the wins in three incident-packed races, meaning that the HiQ Teams’ Championship title could already be destined for the Honda garage for a second successive year.
And it is Scotsman Shedden who leaves the Cheshire circuit the new championship leader as the BTCC now heads to the challenging Croft circuit in North Yorkshire for its next three races of 2012 on the weekend of 23/24 June.
Jason Plato had set a qualifying lap record on Saturday to grab pole position on the starting grid for today’s first race but a problem with his KX Momentum Racing MG6 meant he never took the start. Neal took victory in his Yuasa Honda Racing Team Civic ahead of Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Civic and Hampshire ace Robert Collard’s eBay Motors BMW.
It was then Shedden’s turn to win in race two as Lichfield’s Jordan took another second place finish. Plato, from the back of the grid, took third after a stunning drive through the pack while a career-best fourth was Fleet’s Daniel Welch in his Welch Motorsport Proton Persona.
In race three Neal won again, this time from Plato and Collard’s team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole. Another driver also celebrated his best result to date, namely Hereford’s Lea Wood who was fifth in his BINZ Racing Vauxhall Vectra.
As a result Fife racer Shedden leads the title race by five points from Worcestershire team-mate Neal. Oxford’s Plato, who had led going into today’s three races, has fallen to third, seven points behind Neal.
“It’s been a very topsy-turvy day with no-one really able to put together three strong races and, if I’m honest, I’m a little surprised to be leading,” commented Shedden from Dalgety Bay. “I’ll take points on the board any day but it means my car will go into the Croft event with maximum ballast which will make it very tough to qualify well there.”
Reigning Champion Neal from Shenstone added: “I never expected a win at all today - I really thought Jason was going to have it his own way - so for two to come along is a real surprise. If he can have a problem, though, it just goes to show how quickly it can turn around and there’s still a very long way to go in the season.”
And said Plato: “After the non-start in race one it was all about damage limitation after that and that meant a few risks, but the race two result from the back of the grid was very enjoyable. Second in that third race was also very important as it keeps us right in the hunt going to Croft."
Elsewhere Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Yuasa Racing Team have increased their leads in the Manufacturers/Constructors and HiQ Teams championships. Jordan has moved into the lead of the Independent Drivers Trophy table. But it is Redstone Racing which continues to head the Independent Teams Trophy standings.
Meanwhile Nick Foster and Chris James each received official reprimands and two penalty points on their competition licences for collisions in Oulton's first race, with Aron Smith and Tony Hughes respectively. Mat Jackson was identically punished after a collision with Robert Collard in race two and received the same again following a clash with Daniel Welch in race three.
HiQ Teams’ Points:
1. Honda Yuasa Racing Team, 327
2. eBay Motors, 224
3. Pirtek Racing, 200
4. Redstone Racing, 196
5. MG KX Momentum Racing, 181
6. Team ES Racing.com 97
2012 Dunlop BTCC Drivers’ Points after Oulton Park (round 4 of 10):
1. Gordon Shedden, 1732. Matt Neal, 168
3. Jason Plato, 161
4. Robert Collard, 132
5. Andrew Jordan, 129
6. Mat Jackson, 127
1. Honda/Dynamics, 377
2. MG/888, 284
Independent Drivers’ Points:
1. Andrew Jordan, 164
2. Robert Collard, 158
3. Mat Jackson, 153
4. Tom Onslow-Cole, 114
5. Frank Wrathall & Jeff Smith 100
Independent Teams’ Points:
1. Redstone Racing, 188
2. Pirtek Racing 186
3. eBay Motors, 184
4. Team ES Racing.com, 131
5. Dynojet, 118
6. BINZ Racing, 117