Jason Plato took a second British Touring Car Championship victory of 2014 by leading lights-to-flag in the opening race of the day at Snetterton.
The Triple Eight MG driver made a blistering start from pole position to hold the rear-wheel drive BMW of Colin Turkington at bay heading into Riches for the first time, and was then untroubled for the remainder of the 12-lap contest.
Turkington slotted into second spot while Alain Menu made a lightning getaway to slip into third place ahead of Sam Tordoff. The latter was then removed from the action after he was pinched between Menu and Neal’s dice into turn one, while the West Surrey Racing BMW 125i of Nick Foster spun out in the middle of Riches.
Further incident occurred later in the opening lap as Marc Hynes was sent into a spin by the BMR Racing Volkswagen CC of Jack Goff at the Bombhole, while Plato immediately opened out a lead of over a second following the opening tour of the Norfolk circuit.
That gap extended to almost three seconds as Plato took only his second win of the 2014 season and MG’s third, ahead of Turkington who stretched his championship lead.
Third place finisher Matt Neal enjoyed a feisty opening four laps as he first overtook Tom Ingram‘s Speedworks Toyota Avensis for fourth spot at the Montreal hairpin, before making a successful lunge for third at Murray’s inside Menu’s Volkswagen CC.
Menu’s loss of momentum on lap four from Neal’s attack saw team-mate Aron Smith draw alongside the Swiss driver, both making side-to-side contact past the pits in their dice. The jostling VWs slowed themselves enough to allow Adam Morgan to cleverly sneak inside the pair of them at Montreal, eventually following Neal home in fourth for the WIX Racing Mercedes A-Class.
The Volkswagens of Menu and Smith remained in their fifth and sixth positions until the flag, ahead of Gordon Shedden who climbed up to seventh place.
Seventh is in fact Shedden’s worst result of the 2014 season, such has been his consistency, the Scot now lying 15 points behind series leader Turkington.
Ingram was set for a top-10 finish for Toyota despite the rookie dropping three spots after Smith passed him around the outside at the Complex, but he dramatically retired when a wheel parted company with his Avensis late in the race.
Rob Collard charged through from 19th to ninth overall behind the Motorbase Performance Ford Focus ST of Mat Jackson, the top 10 rounded out by Goff’s Volkswagen CC.
Fabrizio Giovanardi‘s charge was more impressive as he came through to 13th in the second Motorbase Focus, having started from the very rear of the field.
Andrew Jordan – cleared to race after his practice crash on Saturday – started from the pit lane, and also carved through the pack to narrowly miss out on a point in 16th, ahead of Pirtek Racing team-mate Martin Depper who was delayed by contact at Montreal with Jack Clarke‘s Ford Focus ST.
Robb Holland however scored a point for Rotek Racing, finishing 15th in the impressing Audi S3 Saloon at a track he holds BTCC experience at already.
Race two gets underway at 14:35, and you can keep up with all the action from Snetterton with The Checkered Flag and on Twitter via @tcfBTCC.