If the second race weekend of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship told us one thing, it is that the future of the series is in safe hands.
As the dust settled on an extraordinary weekend, some young pretenders to Jason Plato's crown emerged.
Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan and Mat Jackson shared the wins in at Donington, but James Nash will be in the highest spirits, having enjoyed a profitable weekend to lead the drivers' standings.
The 25 year-old showed maturity beyond his years to secure three podium finishes, while Andrew Jordan also excelled, winning race two to surge into fourth place in the overall standings.
However, the race weekend's big talking point was Plato's crash in the second race, his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze running off the track at an estimated 120mph before striking a barrier and rolling three times.
Warwickshire's Jackson then avoided a pile-up ahead of him in race three to come through for his and his Airwaves Racing's first victory with its new Ford Focus. He also became the fourth winner out of the season's opening six races. Jordan and Nash took second and third places to impressively make it podium results in all three of the races.
The star of the show, though, was Plato - in just 90 minutes, his RML crew had repaired his battered car and he rewarded them with an emotional sixth place.
But it is Nash, yet to win a BTCC race, who now leads the points table thanks to his consistently high scoring - indeed, he has finished in the top six in every race so far this season.
But close behind him are Neal, Jackson, Jordan and Plato. Significantly, Jordan achieved the highest cumulative score of anyone and it has helped get his title hopes back on track after a torrid opening round at Brands Hatch.
Nash, aged 25 from Newport Pagnell, said: "It feels unreal to be leading. Last year we really struggled but have transformed the car this year with the new turbo engine. I'm actually now starting to get disappointed by just being on the podium - I really want that first win."
Former double champion Neal commented: "It was starting to look good earlier on with the win and the championship lead but my car was damaged in race three so seventh was a relief. We're still right in there fighting. It sounds clichéd but fortunes turn around so quickly in this championship - just look at Jason today."
Henley-in-Arden's Jackson was left to rue what might have been, adding: "Of course victory in race three is a fantastic result for everyone in the team, particularly after the work we've put into improving the Focus. But I twice ended up off the track today after contact so it could easily have been us leading the way."Andy Jordan added: "We've really got our car singing now after experimenting with the turbo engine last season and we're still improving. I genuinely believe we can now go on from here and mount a serious championship challenge."Notably, several other drivers made their mark at Donington. Tom Onslow-Cole gave the small AmD Milltek Racing.com team's VW Golf a first-ever points finish. Pirtek's Jeff Smith also achieved a career-best fifth and there were maiden top ten results for the Airwaves and WSR teams' rookies Liam Griffin and Nick Foster.Elsewhere, Honda/Dynamics leads the Manufacturer/Constructor table as does Honda Racing the HiQ Teams Championship, while Nash and 888 Racing with Collins Contractors have moved to the top of the Independent drivers and teams' standings respectively.Meanwhile, a number of drivers were punished today for on-track indiscretions: Race 1, Andy Neate, officially reprimanded and 2 penalty points on his competition licence; Race 2, Tom Chilton and Gordon Shedden, both officially reprimanded and 2 penalty points; Race 3, Dave Newsham, fined £500 and 3 penalty points & James Nash, 2 penalty points.
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