A late race mechanical failure for Mat Jackson’s NGTC Ford Focus handed Jason Plato a comfortable win in the first British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) race of the day at Silverstone.
Jackson started the Redstone Racing car from second on the grid, but lost out at Copse on lap one to Rob Collard in the typically fast-starting eBay Motors BMW. Collard slotted his S2000 chassis between the two newer cars for the opening lap before the race was brought under safety car control for two separate accidents.
Chris James launched a highly optimistic late move on Howard Fuller at Copse, the contact destroyed the front bumper of James’ Vectra and – more importantly – the front left suspension on the yellow car, James coming to halt at the side of the track on the run up to Maggotts.
The second accident was two corners, and just a handful of places, further up the field. Andy Neate ejected Andrew Jordan into the Becketts gravel, the Independents’ Championship leader retiring from the race, but not before gesticulating angrily at his aggressor from the side of the track.
The safety car period gave Collard another opportunity to attack Plato, the BMW driver nosing up to the rear of Plato through Copse at the end of the first flying lap after the restart. With Collard momentarily pre-occupied, or even slowed, by the MG ahead Jackson pulled alongside to take the outside line for the left kink at Maggotts, sweeping into a second place confirmed at the Becketts hairpin, where the National Circuit cuts onto the Wellington Straight.
The brief battle for second had allowed Plato to escape into a small – yet ominous given his qualifying pace – lead, but by the time Jackson completed his first lap in second place the gap had been cut to less than two tenths, allowing Jackson to take a look at passing for the lead at Copse before taking the lead further round the lap at Brooklands – the outbraking manoeuvre at the end of the Wellington Straight the only clear passing opportunity on the short circuit.
Jackson pulled out a gap of over a second over Plato, the top two breaking away from third place man Dave Newsham. With three laps to go the gap to Plato appeared to promise a first win for the NGTC Focus introduced at Snetterton but a throttle failure as Jackson accelerated out of his tight line exiting Brooklands handed Plato victory – and pole position for the day’s second race.
Newsham and Jackson’s Redstone Racing teammate Aron Smith were elevated to second and third respectively, the Ford driver taking his first BTCC podium. Collard finished fourth after fighting back up the order having dropped from second on sixth in quick success after the restart. Jackson’s retirement lifted him to his eventual second row start for race two, but Collard needed to fight past Frank Wrathall beforehand, passing the Dynojet Avensis at Brooklands, leaving Wrathall and Adam Morgan to fight for the place as best Toyota in the race.
Unfortunately for both of them the honour would go to Tony Hughes.
Both Wrathall and Morgan dropped out of the points after a coming together at Brooklands as Morgan – desperately unlucky elsewhere this year – tried to take the place from Wrathall.
Having started from 17th Rob Austin drove magnificently through the chaos to pick up fifth place. The high attrition rate – just 16 finishers, including Morgan a lap down – allowed Gordon Shedden to salvage seventh place from 19th on the grid, the works Honda driver finishing between Nick Foster and Jeff Smith at the end of an eventful race that displayed the lack of straight line speed in the Civic as he had to resist repeated attacks from Howard Fuller’s 2011 Civic and Lea Wood in the BINZ Racing Vectra.
Matt Neal was one of the retirements, the reigning championship losing turbo boost meaning that despite his own struggles Shedden’s lead in the championship actually grew to 12 points, though 19 points behind in third Plato now lies with a single race win of the championship lead.
Lea Wood and Tom Onslow-Cole completed the top ten, the latter after starting from the pitlane. Fuller, Neate, Will Bratt, Ollie Jackson and Tony Hughes completed the points positions.