Cruze Controlled? Jason Plato Wins BTCC Race Two

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Having gained the overall points lead after the first race Jason Plato rubber-stamped his lead in the British Touring Car (BTCC) standings taking his first victory of the year in race two at Rockingham.


With the grid of the second 16 lap race of the day set by the finishing order of the first Plato started behind the pair of Team Dynamics Hondas, but was ahead even before turn one, passing pole-sitter Matt Neal and his 45kgs of success ballast below the white line on the inside of the start-finish straight to take the lead even before turn one. Behind the leading trio Andrew Jordan was threading his Vectra through the middle of a three abreast battle into turn one, a small puff of rubber smoke a worrying sign through the fast left hander.

Now without their track position advantage the Hondas were being forced back, Neal was pushed wide through turn three – Yentwood – falling back to fifth by the end of lap one – one place ahead of his teammate Gordon Sheddon and one place behind Thruxton 'victim' Rob Collard.

In a weekend when Collard, who was unceremoniously dumped into the barriers in the final race three weeks ago, described himself as 'vindicated' over the incident as Neal was handed a £250 fine and three penalty points on his racing line up, it was one of the battles everyone wanted to see. Would Collard take revenge on Neal?

The answer was no, or at least it appeared to be, as the BMW driver easily passed Neal on the inside of the Deene hairpin and began reeling in Andrew Jordan, who once more had made his way into the podium positions before fading.

Another fader was Sheddon, though he was more erased than simply fading, Jackson pushing the no.52 car wide in the final Brook chicane complex, the Honda taking out a trackside tyre bundle, though fortunetly it did little meaningful damage to the front of the Civic and landed harmlessly off the track. That was not the only physical driving, Alex MacDowall and Martin Johnson going off together at Deene, dropping down the order, putting both out of ultimate contention for points.

Deene was to claim another victim before the end of the race in the late race battle for tenth between Tom Boardman and James Nash. A lap from the end Nash seemed to have got by the SEAT driver, only to run wide on exit, bouncing off Boardman's car in much the same way he had during the first lap fisticuffs of race one.

Unlike race one, there was an instant loser, Boardman being assaulted off the track, nosing his car into the tyre wall and into retirement .

Upfront Steven Kane, who had held second place since the end of lap one was cutting Plato's lead – by lap 12 what had been nearly three seconds was just half that. However, much of that work was undone when Ulsterman Kane ran wide at Deene, allowing Collard to slip by into second.

While, even with the change of positions the BMWs were able to gain on Plato, they were doing at nowhere near fast enough to pose a serious problem to Plato. However, Plato, struggling with the tyres on his front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Cruze suddenly showed out of Tarzan, less than half a lap from the checkered flag.

Whether it the Dunlop rubber suddenly falling away, some other problem or just clever driving from the veteran remains to be seen, but the Cruze all but stopped through the various apexes of the final chicane, Collard's West Surrey Racing entry pushing Plato through the corner.

With Plato's ability to accelerate all but gone, the race looked set to be decided by a final drag race to the line. Unfortunately (at the least from the fans point of view) with one last nudge on the exit fo the final corner Collard, briefly, slid sideways under power.

It was only a second, but it was all the advantage Plato needed to make it to the line and take the Cruze's first BTCC victory.

The top nine finishers will be reversed for the grid for the final race of the day which hands Matt Neal another pole position, with Paul O'Neill alongside.

BTCC Rockingham Race Two Result

1. No.2 Jason Plato – 16 laps in 23:03.392
2. No.6 Rob Collard – +0.490
3. No.11 Steven Kane – +1.913
4. No.5 Mat Jackson – +3.433
5. No.77 Andrew Jordan – +15.363
6. No.23 Tom Chilton – +18.125
7. No.21 Tom Onslow-Cole +21.134
8. No.29 Paul O'Neill – +21.405
9. No.4 Matt Neal – +23.830
10. No.14 James Nash – +31.639

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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