After the worry of qualifying Jason Plato was handed a golden opportunity to start his British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) title defence, an opportunity that he only needed one invitation for.
After starting from third Plato was already in the lead by the time the pack reached Druids on the first racing lap. Pole sitter Matt Neal slide wide from the diving apex of Paddock Hill Bend, and with the Silverline Chevrolet already alongside Andrew Jordan Plato had clear track to take the inside line for the hairpin.
Neal was not so lucky. Shuffled onto the outside for the corner he was helped into the gravel by Alex MacDowall in the second of the RML-run Cruze's. The safety car – never a stranger on BTCC weekends – was called into action while Neal's Honda Civic was hauled into a disappointing retirement, leading around Jason Plato, James Nash and Tom Chilton the beneficiaries of the early race incidents moving up from fourth and seventh on the grid respectively.
Another driver to benefit as drivers fell out early on, including debutant Liam Griffin and Rob Collard who were both claimed by an incident on the formation lap, was Gordon Shedden.
After a high-speed crash yesterday the Scot had had to sit out qualifying but his charge through the field was almost certainly the performance of the race.
After just a handful of laps – including those conducted under the safety car Shedden was knocking on the door of the top ten, and by just lap eight was in the points positions after passing Team Aon driver Andy Neate. Shedden next bested Tony Gilham – the Porsche convert impressing on his BTCC bow – before pushing his way past Paul O'Neill.
Shedden's push was complete with exactly that – a push – on Tom Boardman. Boardman's SEAT Leon was helped Clearways, it's right-rear wheel heaved into the air under pressure from Shedden who repeated the show of very, very aggressive driving at Druids – bumping Boardman wide. Having run sixth for much of the race the luckless Boardman was forced to retire with a broken steering rack as a by-product of Shedden's attention.
Boardman was not the only man to suffer a late race problem. After losing out in the first lap bumping Andrew Jordan was running down in seventh behind Boardman and Alex MacDowall, with clearly a faster car. He too applied forceful move on Boardman, barging past at Clearways, before passing Alex MacDowall cleanly at Druids.
However, the move on Boardman was to return to haunt the Staffordshire-based driver. The front-left tyre, which had been rubbing for much of the race finally gave up in the closing laps, the Pirtek Racing driver once more losing a promising result.
At the head of the field there was no change. Plato had jumped into a lead of over a second when the safety car pulled off, the advantage swelling to 1.8 seconds before James Nash started eroding the lead. For Nash there were no tyre worries, going so far as to say the tyres didn't go off as badly as he expected over the 24 laps race distance.
Nash whittled the lead down to under a second, but Plato held on to take his 61st BTCC win to break Andy Rouse's all time record, an achievement Plato admitted he was happy to have accomplished early in the year.
Tom Chilton held off Mat Jackson in the older Ford Focus for the final podium spot, with MacDowall in fifth. Sixth place Shedden led home those he had passed – O'Neill and Gilham. The retina-searing Vectra the first of three BTCC debutants to pick up points, Jeff Smith ninth in the second Pirtek run car ahead of Dave Newsham in the Geoff Steel Racing BMW in tenth.
Brands Hatch Indy Race One Results (unofficial)
|1||1||Jason Plato||Silverline Chevrolet||24 Laps in 20:31.736|
|2||14||James Nash||888 with Collins Contractors||+0.709|
|3||5||Tom Chilton||Team Aon||+4.318|
|4||7||Mat Jackson||Airwaves Racing||+4.746|
|5||20||Alex MacDowall||Silverline Chevrolet||+13.078|
|6||52||Gordon Shedden||Honda Racing Team||+14.663|
|7||29||Paul O'Neill||GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed||+15.260|
|8||34||Tony Gilham||888 with Collins Contractors||+16.259|
|9||55||Jeff Smith||Pirtek Racing||+21.946|
|10||17||Dave Newsham||Geoff Steel Racing||+23.508|
|11||44||Andy Neate||Team Aon||+24.798|
|13||99||Ton Onslow-Cole||AmD Milltek Racing||+28.240|
|14||28||John George||GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed||+1 Lap|
|15||78||Chris James||Team ES Racing||+1 Lap|
|16||77||Andrew Jordan||Pirtek Racing||+1 Lap|
|17||8||Rob Collard||WSR||+2 Laps|
|DNF||22||Tom Boardman||Special Tuning Racing||22 Laps|
|DNF||50||Tony Hughes||Speedworks||15 Laps|
|DNF||11||Frank Wrathall||Dynojet||13 Laps|
|DNF||2||Matt Neal||Honda Racing Team||0 Laps|
|DNF||66||Liam Griffin||Honda Racing Team||0 Laps|
|DNS||12||Dave Pinkney||Rob Austin Racing|