Of the seventeen points on offer for the first British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Jason Plato took each and every one of them to extend his championship lead and leave Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden facing an even steeper challenge.
The race also saw Tom Onslow-Cole bow out of the title chase. The Team Aon driver was progressing steadily up the field from his tenth place start, making his way up to seventh after the opening lap. However, on lap nine of the 24 lap encounter he slowed dramatically through Graham Hill Bend before pulling off the track to drivers' right.
The emotion was evident, Onslow-Cole remaining in the lifeless car for some time, simply coming to terms with the end if his title hopes.
The three he left at the head of the field were in a class of their own.
Jason Plato had capitalised on a poor start by Matt Neal to move into a seconds lead at the end of the first lap. He then put the Chevrolet Cruze's continued dominance around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit to good use, pulling away from Gordon Shedden, who had passed Neal off the start line – as had Mat Jackson.
As Shedden escaped Neal was left frustrated by the rear bumper of the Airwaves BMW, unable to get past. Where aggressive driving may have been expected it was enough for Neal to wait for Jackson to make a mistake.
“We just took a bit too much kerb on the apex,” Jackson told TCF of the error at Surtees that saw him spin out of third place on lap eight. “It bottomed out and hit the sub-frame. We were a passenger, it just rotated us around and from that point it was all over.”
Luckily he avoided both wall and gravel to continue on – re-joining at the rear of the field racing with Ben Collins in another of the Airwaves backed cars – the team having rebuilt the car after gearbox problems curtailed his Saturday running. The pair would finish 13th and 14th, Jackson ahead of Collins.
Though he now had clear track between he and Shedden Neal was unable to make much ground – only closing in the final laps, though Shedden kept the place to pick up two points on his teammate in what could easily be considered a battle for second more than a fight for the championship, such is Plato's lead.
“It doesn't really matter,” scoffed Shedden at the importance of beating Neal. “I don't think I've been more disappointed with a second place yet. We've got to try and beat Jason, that's the main thing. Matt and I will work it together.”
“At the moment we've got to go out and get everything we can,” he added, denying even the suggestion of team orders to further the challenge of a single driver.
Alex MacDowall recovered to fourth – his original grid slot – after a up-and-down race. He (and Tom Chilton who dropped to tenth over the opening laps) was the big loser from the start. Spotting an opportunity in Neal wheelspinning getaway the 19-year-old had tried a hopeful move on the drop down Paddock Hill for the first time only to find himself eased out wide and won to sixth, behind James Nash.
Nash was able to keep MacDowall's works Chevrolet at bay until lap 13 when the Cruze nosed Nash wide at Druids before filling the newly created gap on the inside. Around the flowing Indy ciruit Nash quickly lost another place to Rob Collard – the West Surrey Racing BMW easily outdragging the Vectra down the pit straight – completing the pass before crossing the start/finish line at the beginning of lap 14.
Nash would also slip behind Paul O'Neill and Tom Chilton to finish eighth while his debutant teammate Sam Tordoff fared even worse. A poor start had dropped him from eighth outside the top ten before he was given a late race drive through for continually running with all four tyres off the track.
Andrew Jordan and Tom Boardman completed the points scorers in ninth and tenth after a race long battle – both moving up two places from their grid slots.
Plato's lead now stands at a daunting 25 points over Matt Neal with Shedden an additional two points behind.
BTCC Brands Hatch Indy Race One Results
1 No.2 Jason Plato – 24 laps in 19:56.707
2 No.52 Gordon Shedden – +2.154
3 No.4 Matt Neal – +2.750
4 No.20 Alex MacDowall – +4.626
5 No.6 Rob Collard – +4.886
6 No.29 Paul O'Neill – +11.276
7 No.23 Tom Chilton – +11.871
8 No.14 James Nash – +13.002
9 No.77 Andrew Jordan – +14.268
10 No.22 Tom Boardman – +16.139