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BTCC Brands Hatch Race 1: Plato Wins Opener As Honda Suffer

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Alex MacDowall, Jason Plato and Mat Jackson On The BTCC Podium - Photo Credit:


Jason Plato cruised to a lights to flag win in Round 25 of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship and saw his championship chances boosted when both his championship rivals, Honda Racing team-mates Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, finished out of the points after punctures.

Plato dominated qualifying to line up on pole for the opening race at a sun-bathed Brands Hatch, with Andrew Jordan set to line up on the front row alongside him. There was huge disappointment for the Pirtek Racing star though when mechanical woes meant his Vauxhall Vectra wouldn't start, leaving him stranded in the pitlane.

 This left Plato with no-one alongside him, giving him a clear run to Paddock Hill for the first time, while behind, his team-mate Alex MacDowall slotted into second. Taking third was Neal, a great start moving him up from sixth on the grid, meanwhile team-mate Shedden got boxed in at the start and dropped from fifth to sixth, behind Independents frontrunners James Nash and Mat Jackson.

The top six ran in formation for the opening half of the race until the drama began on lap seven. First it was Shedden, the Scot dropping a wheel onto the grass on the approach to Graham Hill Bend, causing him to slide wide and lose three places to Paul O'Neill and Team Aon pair Tom Onslow-Cole and Tom Chilton.

Honda's race was to get much worse though, with Neal the first to drop on lap ten with a front left puncture, before Shedden got an identical tyre failure on the penultimate lap, a nightmare end to the race for the duo.

Benefitting from this to close right in on the championship standings was race-winner Plato, the Chevrolet Cruze driver crossing the line well clear of his nearest rival. It was Jackson who came home second, the Airwaves Racing driver passing Nash when the Triple Eight driver had to back off when passing the slowing Neal, before dispatching MacDowall late on.

MacDowall finished third, his third podium of the year, with Nash taking fourth. Onslow-Cole took fifth in his Focus, ahead of Tech Speed's O'Neill and team-mate Chilton. WSR's Rob Collard took eighth, with Aon's Andy Neate ninth and Nick Foster completing the top ten in his BMW. BTCC debutant Oliver Jackson took a solid eleventh on his debut with Triple Eight, while the top NGTC runner was Rob Austin in thirteenth, after both Daniel Welch and Frank Wrathall retired after promising races.

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Simon provides coverage of the support championships for the BTCC, having been a fixture in the TOCA paddock for over six years.
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