The penultimate race weekend saw a lot of action, drama, and twists in the tale for the race for the title. Andrew Jordan managed to extend his lead in the race for the Drivers’ title, as well as staying in the lead for the Independents’ teams’ and drivers’ championships via Pirtek Racing after the action unfolded at Silverstone’s National Circuit.
The MG KX Momentum duo of Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff were incredibly strong this weekend past, as Plato set numerous lap records all the way through the weekend, showing their pace to be as confirmed – faster than anyone else.
This was first demonstrated by the fourth front row lockout of the season, with the two-time champion getting another pole position ahead of his rookie teammate, pipping Tordoff by just 0.009seconds.
The tactics of both drivers using the slipstream around the 1.6-mile track worked to their advantage during qualifying, with Speedworks’ Dave Newsham carrying his increased form into P3 on the grid, ahead of a clearly focused Colin Turkington, who lined up alongside.
Frank Wrathall could have found himself out of the top five, had his Avensis stayed at the current ride height, but the Dynojet mechanics got things back on track for the youngster, who was ahead of Team Hard’s Jack Goff, who was really impressive, pushing Ciceley Racing’s Adam Morgan down to seventh ahead of Rob Collard.
Matt Neal, who was originally a doubt for Silverstone, after breaking one of his fingers during his martial arts training for the third season in a row, started his Herculean effort by putting his Yuasa Honda Racing Civic in 9th place, ahead of points leader who was carrying the full 45kg success ballast.
IP Tech Race Engineering’s Andy Neate was narrowly outside the top ten, as the car was late to the grid this season, but has made up for it, whereas Dan Welch, who suffered a nasty injury at Rockingham, along with Gordon Shedden suffered trouble at the long left hander, with the defending champion demoted down to 15th along with the 36kg ballast he had for the first race.
It was a mere race formality for Plato, who saw off a challenge from teammate Tordoff for the lead, to win for the fifth time this year, with his rookie teammate just 1.4 seconds behind, in what was an MG master class. Tordoff managed to fight his way back to make the MG 1-2 happen, as he lost out to both Newsham and Turkington, whilst fighting for the lead early on.
Newsham, however, ended up a little tail happy going into Brooklands, dropping the Toyota Avensis down to 12th, just before Lap 3 saw Nick Foster and Andy Neate tangle on the main straight and end up in the gravel, bringing out the Safety Car. The M6s of Plato and Tordoff literally bolted the minute the Safety Car was pit lane bound and could not be touched, but the men that were making their way through the field were Jordan and Neal, as the latter made his way up to the podium, with Jordan trying to follow the factory Honda Civic.
Neal got through past Wrathall on the inside of Becketts, which then saw the three-time champion get past both Collard and Turkington on Laps 12 and 13. Turkington tried a last-minute retaliation against Neal, but it was not to be, as the Ulsterman ended up ahead of Jordan, who still had a 29-point advantage in the title race ahead of Neal.
Morgan got up to 6th, ahead of the Airwaves Racing duo of both Aron Smith and Mat Jackson, with Newsham making a steady recovery to round out the top ten. Shedden himself fought hard with Wrathall, Rob Austin and Welch for 11th place, with Goff being eliminated through contact with Jackson. Will Bratt was an innocent bystander when Foster and Neate collided.
There was drama at the start of Race 2, which saw Jason Plato secure his 80th BTCC career win, as he tore away from the start, whilst fending off Turkington, who was again quick away from the lights light he has been all year. Tordoff again slipped back down the order to P4, as he was slow away, and ended up being tapped by Collard before returning the favour.
The eBay Motors driver ended up in the pits having damage repaired, whilst the Safety Car was out for the second time of the day, due to an accident that involved Rob Austin, Tom Onslow-Cole and Frank Wrathall at Becketts.
Plato may have made another lightening fast getaway, but Jordan was charging hard to get a top three finish, as the 45kg ballast he had during race 1 as well as running on the Dunlop soft tyres no longer hindered him. He passed Neal through Copse as green flags were waved again, following that up with a similar move on Turkington not that much later, who was passed by Tordoff into Luffield.
Jordan got past Tordoff for second place on Lap 11 at Copse, thanks to much better grip, and then started to push his way forward and try to close the gap on Plato. Jordan managed to catch Plato with just five laps left, and passed the Fifth Gear presenter into Becketts, with the Oxfordshire-based driver coming back at the points leader, winning by only just 0.244seconds.
Aron Smith got his chance to shine, as he too was running on the soft tyres, having deposed teammate Jackson, Morgan, Turkington and Tordofff, but by then it was too little too late to go for the win, as he could not unsettle the top two, grabbing his third podium of the year.
Neal again got himself back up the grid, as he ended up in 6th ahead of team-mate Shedden, with Newsham, Welch and Jackson rounding out the top ten. Howard Fuller secured 11th for Team HARD, as Lea Wood again took another win in the Jack Sears Trophy, where he has been completely dominant, having wrapped up the title last time out at Rockingham, having survived first-lap contact with Warren Scott before catching and passing Liam Griffin.
The pain barrier was one for Matt Neal to contend with, having had injections in his hand, but it didn’t stop him from keeping himself in the hunt for the title, as the final race of the day was won by his team-mate, Shedden, who put the pressure onto Turkington for the final race of the weekend.
Neal was on the reverse-grid pole position, ahead of the Ulsterman, who shot ahead into Turn 1 off the start, and started to extend a lead. Neal’s race wasn’t without drama however, as the final bit of tussling sent rookie driver Sam Tordoff into a spin at Luffield, following several brushes between the pair.
Aron Smith had another race to talk about, as he claimed second ahead of Neal, who rounded out the podium, having been on the soft tyres, which were given some breathing space, due to the Safety Car coming out for the third race in succession, as a result of debris being on the racing line at the last corner.
Mat Jackson gave Airwaves Racing some well-deserved points, making his way up to fourth, as Jason Plato was finding himself slipping down the field to finish 7th. Plato has a couple of tussles with Jordan, with the Pirtek Racing Civic coming under fire twice at Luffield, before finishing 5th to slightly extend his lead going into Brands Hatch in under a fortnight.
The Toyotas of Newsham and Morgan finished 6th and 8th respectively, with Jack Goff and Dan Welch completing the top ten, as Morgan was clearly impressing, having fought his way from the back of the field. Lea Wood rounded off another dominant performance with a hat-trick of Jack Sears Trophy wins as the weekend came to a close in Northamptonshire.
With the last race day set to hit the TV screens on ITV Sport in less than a fortnight, Andrew Jordan may have a 34-point advantage going to Kent, but the 24-year-old is more than aware than something can happen that may upset the way the results turn out. With Neal, Shedden, Turkington and Plato all also in with a chance, it is too close to call.
(Image credits: btcc.net)