Jason Plato took a terrific first win for the new MG KX Momentum Racing squad, overcoming Andrew Jordan in the final race of the day at Brands Hatch.
The race was red flagged after three laps after a melee at Druids. Mat Jackson running second to Rob Collard ran wide exiting Paddock Hill Bend damaging the Redstone Racing Focus, leaving a trail of fluid up the hill to Druids.
Ollie Jackson, who had slipped back from pole in the early laps was the first man caught out, spinning wildly into the gravel trap. The Norfolk driver was soon joined by six other cars – Tom Onslow–Cole, Tony Gilham, Tony Hughes, Aron Smith, Daniel Welch and Adam Morgan all joining him in the gravel after spearing off.
Ollie Jackson spoke to The Checkered Flag; “I came to a stop and I came to stop and I was going so quick I thought I was going to hit the barrier a lot harder, but I stopped resting against the barrier and I thought 'oh I've got away with that' and then I looked right and thought 'oh dear' and there were a lot of cars flying towards me.”
With the gravel trap full to capacity, Mat Jackson's car stopped at the foot of Graham Hill Bend and a trail of fluids to dry up the red flag was brought out – the drivers of the thirteen cars left in the race coming to a halt on the grid.
After a 25 minute stoppage, and joined by Gilham, Hughes and Smith from the pitlane the race restarted, shortened to 20 laps.
Collard reprised his good getaway from the initial start to pull ahead of Rob Austin who restarted from the other spot on the front row. Jordan and Plato stalk the lead pair from the second row of the grid, moving forward with metronomic pace.
Jordan took second from Austin at Paddock Hill Bend on lap seven. Plato took third a lap later in an identical move.
Jordan passed Collard for the lead, taking the inside line at Clearways. Plato followed suit a lap later.
Plato hounded Jordan, clearly faster than the Honda man, especially though Druids and Clearways. Several times Plato looked ready to pull to the inside line exiting Clearways, but Jordan defended resolutely.
The Pirtek man's defence finally cracked five laps from home, and once ahead Plato's performance advantage showed through as he eased clear in the lead by nearly two seconds at the end of an eventful race and an eventful day to take a massive win for the Triple Eight team and for MG on their return to the BTCC paddock as a manufacturer.
“It's probably the very sweetest win I've ever had,” Plato compared the victory to others in his record breaking BTCC career. “I've been involved in this program massively since late December. I took a big risk that from the outside everyone thought was bonkers, bit I knew the quality of the people who are at Triple Eight and I knew what we could achieve together and everyone's put the most amazing amount of work.”
“I've never seen a team work as hard. Sleepless nights, not just one but weeks of them. They didn't get to bed until half past five on Friday night, Saturday morning. There's a lot of blood, sweat and tear and this is the result. We've worked really hard and really professionally this weekend and our sponsors are happy, we're doing a great job with the marketing. It's what dreams are made of.”
Dave Newsham took an unlikely third place, his car sporting race tape on the front bumper, the legacy of his race one off at the hands of Plato – the two men shook hands on the podium.
Despite the tape – and the damage – hindering the Team ES Racing driver's progress he still got the better of a fading Austin and Collard, who would end the race fifth and sixth respectively also slipping behind Gordon Shedden and Jeff Smith.
For Shedden the fourth place was some reward at the end of a weekend blighted by a mystery electrics problem that limited his practice time on Saturday, delayed him in race one and knocked him out of race two. His teammate Matt Neal finished seventh, the reigning champion losing out when he slid sideways exiting Paddock Hill Bend one the opening lap of the restart, falling to 14th.
Aron Smith was the best of those who joined the race from the pits in eighth. Lea Wood, Tony Gilham, Liam Griffin, Chris James, Frank Wrathall, Andy Neate and Tony Hughes rounding out the points scorers.
John Thorne, completing the full debut weekend in the Vauxhall Insignia was the only classified finisher not to score a point, finishing 16th after a spin.
UPDATE: Gordon Shedden was excluded from the results due to the team performing unauthorised work on the car during the red flag stoppage when Shedden’s Civic was in the pits. The decision promoted John Thorne to 15th, giving the small team a single championship point at the end of a tough weekend.