Triple Eight came away from the fourth BTCC round at Oulton Park with big smiles on their faces, Jason Plato winning twice to close on the championship lead despite a fiery demise from the final race of the day.
Plato was unstoppable at the Cheshire circuit for much of the weekend, leading the MG KX Momentum Racing team to their first front row lockout in qualifying before heading team-mate Sam Tordoff home to their first 1-2 finish in race one on Sunday.
The former double champion then doubled his success in race two to move briefly into the championship lead with his 78th career victory, but was denied the chance to fight for a triple triumph and extend that points lead when a dramatic blaze under the bonnet of his MG6 -Plato pointing the cause of the fire to contact within the duelling pack – saw him forced to abandon his machine, although he declared the weekend was still a memorable one for the squad.
“That was one heck of a weekend,” said Plato afterwards. “We had a fantastic car underneath us but that is only part of the job. You still have to land the results and we did. The team has worked hard to get the best out of this car, and I am now confident that we will be able to go anywhere and be fast. It is a joy to drive.
Plato’s fiery exit in the third race while running in the fighting pack cost him the championship lead back to Honda Yuasa Racing ‘s Matt Neal, the meaning the MG ace lies third in the championship after an encouraging weekend and will head to his local circuit at Croft in North Yorkshire next weekend (June 22-23) just seven points off the series leader.
“There was a concertina effect at the hairpin on lap two, and everyone tapped into the back of each other,” explained Plato following his heated race three exit. “I nudged into the car in front, and that may have a link to the failure but there is no apparent damage we can see on any external components. It is a shame, but we’re still able to walk away form here with a smile.”
His team-mate Tordoff also scored the best BTCC result of his rookie season so far, shadowing his team-mate all weekend by qualifying second on the grid and finishing second behind Plato in Sunday’s first race, although a soft tyre gamble in race two saw him eventually begin to be swamped by the pack and, despite his valiant defensive efforts, the Leeds younster dropped to 21st after a puncture caused by contact with Motorbase‘s Mat Jackson at the Island haiprin.
“I was delighted with the podium in the opening race and, as Jason says, it underlines the progress we have made in the car throughout the year,” explained Tordoff. “I was still able to push at the end of the first race if I had needed too, but fortunately, I didn’t have to. I went with the softer option tyres in race two, which went off towards the end and I dropped back before the contact.
Despite the race two setback, it staged a superb fightback from the KX-backed Tordoff, charging through the pack to an eventual sventh place to cement im into fifth in the standings heading to Croft – Tordoff’s own local round also. “Race three was really good fun, and that shows what we are capable of – I think if I had have started in the top ten, I could have won that race,” he added.
Triple Eight team principal Ian Harrison, like Plato, also left the circuit with a grin on his face after the squad’s successful weekend, commenting: “When you have won two out of three races, you can’t complain. But what I am delighted about is that we have two cars up there capable of battling for wins, which we haven’t had before. Sam had some rough times this weekend but hey, this is the BTCC. It isn’t easy. Jason’s narrowed the gap to the points leaders and we are in a strong frame of mind.”