The new official works Chevrolet team, Silverline Chevrolet have come away from a strong start to the season at Thruxton, Hampshire, with their lead driver Jason Plato sitting second in the standings while debutant Alex MacDowall showing signs of speed and potential as he recorded a trio of points finishes.
The team currently lead the Manufacturers/Constructors Championship with 74 points after the first 3 of 30 races which make up the 2010 BTCC season, while Plato is currently 2nd overall, 7 points behind Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi, after taking a second, fourth and third in the 3 races – “I set myself a target of 30 points and came away with 31,” said the Oxfordshire-based former champion. “Our championship campaign starts in earnest at Rockingham – there, we'll be really going for it.”
The opening race of the season saw Plato climb his way up from fifth on the grid to finish second and take 12 Championship points, having passed the Pirtek Racing Vauxhall Vectra of Andrew Jordan for fourth and then set about defending from the Team AON LPG powered Ford Focus of Tom Onslow-Cole.
Once the Honda Racing Civics had encountered problems, this left the door open for Plato to open his account for the season with a fine second place, while debutant team mate MacDowall scored points in seventh.
Jason said about the opening race: “It's always tough here, and this is the Vauxhall hunting ground. We played it conservative with the tyres, because it is hard here on them. The game plan for us was to finish strongly. Second place is a lot of points; it's a good start to our campaign.”
Race 2 saw Plato spend the majority of the race defending from the rapid Honda Integra of Paul O'Neill, until 4 laps from the end when Matt Neal got passed, and at the Club Chicane on lap 15, contact between the two of them meant that Plato was down to fourth, and speaking after the race, he commented on the incident: “Matt had such a good run, so I knew he'd have a go,” said Jason. “I thought, I'd let him come round the outside of me and I'd hold him out as long as I could, so he wouldn't be able to get up the inside. But it didn't quite work. As we got onto the brakes, I lost the rear of my car, so it sent me in to him and it was game over. I was trying to be crafty but it was a bit of a mistake from me. It would have been nice for a second, but we'll take fourth. My championship campaign begins at Rockingham.”
The final race of the day saw MacDowall end up fourth on the grid with Plato sixth after the top 9 from race 2 were reversed. MacDowall had a slow start and dropped out the points and down to 14th place, but showed why he is the 2009 Clio Cup vice Champion with a drive which secured him ninth place overall.
For Plato, it was a different story all together, as he took advantage of the incident exiting Club between early race leader Collard and Neal, Plato passing them for third, which he held on to until the flag, withstanding the pressure from Shedden in the Honda and Giovanardi in the Vectra.
“Thruxton was primarily about turning in a solid points performance,” said Jason. “It's a hard circuit, it really takes its toll on tyres and BTCC cars are heavy things – my aim was to make the car last and get some decent points on the board ahead of Rockingham and Brands, where we'll really go for it.”
For 19 year old MacDowall, Thruxton gave him the chance to learn more about the team and the car, and he said: “It was a little daunting at first,” said the Carlisle-based youngster, “I was thinking I'm on a grid surrounded by BTCC drivers, and they're not renowned for being gentle, but after the first two races I really settled in.
“The car is great – it has a lot of straight line speed, and I'm sure that with the RML team behind us, as well as Chevrolet and Silverline, we can get plenty more out of it as the season progresses.”
After the opening 3 races of the Championship, Plato is currently third with 31 points while MacDowall is currently 7th overall with 11 points. Silverline Chevrolet leads the way in the Manufacturers Championship with 74 points while they are currently third in the Teams Championship.
The next race for Plato and MacDowall is at Rockingham over the 24 and 25 April, the 4th, 5th and 6th rounds of the 30 race season.
Photo credit: BTCC.net