The top three in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) drivers' championship are separated by just 19 points as the series reached its midway point with three action-packed races at Croft in North Yorkshire.
Silverline Chevrolet's Jason Plato remains in second place in the championship, eight points behind after a weekend where he, and teammate Alex MacDowall, saw mixed fortunes.
In a ballast-laden car in race one Plato battled his way from sixth to third place – one place ahead of championship rival Matt Neal. The second race saw Plato once more in a battle upfront with Neal and his Honda teammate Gordon Sheddon, Plato taking another third place behind the Honda 1-2.
MacDowall, meanwhile, was trying battle his way up through the Touring Car field, having finished the opening race in 13th after excessive tyre wear caused the young driver to drop back. The 19-year-old fought his way up to the points positions in ninth, Chevrolet themselves describing his display as “just how to bruise a Cruze” with a performance that demolished two of the tracks tyre walls, the car finishing the race in a “somewhat battered condition” according to the team.
Unluckily MacDowall fell outside of the random grid reversal for the final race of the day, which saw Plato start from fifth. In the opening corners, as those ahead fought with each other Plato took full advantage dashing into third place.
However, he was forced to bring his Silverline-sponsored car into the pits after just three laps with a right-rear punctures, which though the team were able to replace the tyre, dropped him out of any contention for a top-ten finish. But on a new tyre, and away from the race upfront Plato was able to set the fastest lap of the race, earning himself a single bonus point.
MacDowall, out in a repaired Cruze after his physical race two drive kept up the team's points scoring day, gaining another point for the team's title bid, one place behind Sheddon, who took the only race three points for Team Dynamics, Matt Neal having retired after a front puncture.
For all the close racing the points gap between Neal and Plato remains the same – eight points, with double race winner Sheddon in third. The Silverline Chevrolet/RML team sit third in the teams'/constructors' title race with 229 points behind Arena's Fords (256) and leader Team Dynamics (270)
“We took a bit of a penalty with the weight ballast today, which on a fast circuit like Croft meant we couldn't exploit the car as much as we'd wished,” said Plato, summing up the race day. “But we put in some good, solid races and some valuable points on the board – there's a long way to go. It's all shaping up nicely for an exciting second half of the season.”
The championship now takes a summer break before it returns to racing on August 8 at Snetterton, Norfolk.