With a nation still wiping their tears from an emotional end to a glorious Olympic Games, sports fans can console themselves with one thought…
…The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is starting to hot up nicely with four more race weekends left.
The latest round of racing at Snetterton showcased the very best of Britain’s premier motor racing series, with Dave Newsham and Andrew Jordan recording stand-out victories along with the predatory Jason Plato.
But it is Matt Neal who continues to lead the standings - just - from team-mate Gordon Shedden as the nation’s premier motor racing championship now heads to the latter’s home circuit of Knockhill, Fife in a fortnight on the weekend of 25/26 August.
The HiQ Teams’ Championship is still firmly in the hands of the Hondas, boasting a near-insurmountable lead in from the chasing pack, led by the emerging eBay Motors team.
Preston’s Frank Wrathall had achieved his and his Dynojet team’s first BTCC pole position in Saturday’s qualifying session. Oxford’s Plato, though, got in front at the start of race one to take his third win of 2012 in his MG KX Momentum Racing MG6. Wrathall was second in his Toyota Avensis and Jordan third in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic.
Lichfield’s Jordan took the win in the second race - his first of the season - but only after Plato’s MG and Worcestershire ace Neal’s Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic had controversially collided and run off the track ahead of him with a lap to go. Shedden was second ahead of the recovering Plato and Neal in third and fourth.
Inverness racer Newsham’s victory, his and the tiny Team ES Racing.com squad’s first in the BTCC, came in race three as he won comfortably in his Vauxhall Vectra. Tom Onslow-Cole was second in his eBay Motors BMW ahead of Plato who took another third.
Lea Wood may well have achieved a maiden podium result had his BINZ Racing Vectra not cruelly retired with just a few laps to go, while Mat Jackson completed a hugely encouraging debut for Redstone Racing’s all-new NGTC-spec Ford Focus ST - only completed at 7.00am on Saturday - with a fourth-place finish.
But there was a double disaster for the factory Honda squad as Neal finished a lowly eighth after a spin and Shedden, who had crossed the line in third, was later excluded for a technical infringement with his car.
It means reigning champion Neal retains the championship lead but now only ten points cover the top three, with Shedden eight behind and Plato just two more adrift. Plato had started today 29 points down on Neal…
Neal commented: “We knew we were on the back foot after qualifying and so it proved to be. It’s been a case of damage limitation today and the spin in race three after contact from Wrathall did me no favours. Knockhill, which has shorter straights, is next so should be better for us but it’s clear we have a lot of work to do.”
Dalgety Bay’s Shedden, who’d started the day’s first race from last on the grid after a spectacular fire aboard his car on Saturday morning had prevented him from qualifying, was dejected. He said: “I’ve clearly done something to someone, what with the fire and then the exclusion - without that I’d have been leading the table and it was also very cruel on the team who’d performed miracles to give me a race-ready car today after the fire. Knockhill is, of course, next and I’m determined to fight back for the fans there. I won’t be short on adrenaline…”Three podium results today have suddenly moved Plato right back into contention as he chases a third BTCC title. He added: “I couldn’t have asked for much more, although it was a shame about the incident with Matt in race two after I’d led all the way up until then. What’s encouraging is the MG is really starting to come alive at a crucial stage of the season. In fact I think it’s going to be strong at all four remaining rounds so it’s game on.”
Jordan and Newsham were both elated with their wins. The former enthused: “The win is long overdue and the perfect way for us to start the second half of the season. I’m delighted.” And said Newsham: “A win for little ES Racing and the sponsors who keep our season ticking over is just unbelievable but thoroughly deserved. The timing couldn’t be better either with Knockhill, my home race, next. It’s going to be a very special weekend.”
Elsewhere Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Yuasa Racing Team continue to handsomely lead both the Manufacturers/Constructors and outright HiQ Teams championships. Jordan has also extended his lead in the Independent Drivers standings and his Pirtek Racing outfit has taken command of the Independent Teams Trophy.
Meanwhile a number of drivers were penalised for incidents at Snetterton today. Race 1: Robb Holland, official reprimand and two penalty points on his competition licence (for an incident with Adam Morgan); Dave Newsham, excluded (underweight car); Andrew Jordan, verbal warning (for an incident with Dave Newsham). Race 2: Jason Plato and Matt Neal, verbal warnings (for an on-track collision); Jeff Smith, official reprimand and two penalty points on his licence (for an incident with Andy Neate). Race 3: Gordon Shedden, excluded (for exceeding turbo boost limits); Frank Wrathall, verbal warning (for an incident with Matt Neal).
HiQ Teams’ Points:
1. Honda Yuasa Racing Team, 482
2. eBay Motors, 3503. Pirtek Racing, 313
4. MG KX Momentum Racing, 2925. Redstone Racing, 267
6. Team ES Racing.com, 133
2012 Dunlop BTCC Drivers’ Points after Snetterton (round 6 of 10):
1. Matt Neal, 2552. Gordon Shedden, 2473. Jason Plato, 245
4. Andrew Jordan, 218
5. Robert Collard, 1786. Mat Jackson, 170
1. Honda/Dynamics, 5672. MG/888, 458