AT OULTON PARK; GIOVANARDI EXTENDS SERIES LEAD A record crowd of more than 30,000 fans saw race wins for Jason Plato, Colin Turkington and Gordon Shedden at Oulton Park in this afternoon's HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, but it was reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi who left the Cheshire circuit with an increased points advantage in the series.
The day had started promisingly for SEAT's Jason Plato, winning race one at a canter from pole position after he and team mate Darren Turner had completed a front row lock-out in yesterday's qualifying session in their Leon TDIs. Turner was running second on lap four before a coming together with Tom Chilton's Honda Civic dropped him to sixth place. Chilton went on to finish second, while Fabrizio Giovanardi drove a steady race to complete the podium in his Vauxhall Vectra.
Plato thus started the second race from pole position and made the perfect start to lead into the first corner. A blinding start from Turkington shot the Northern Irishman into second place from fourth on the grid, ahead of the VX Racing pair of Tom Onslow-Cole and Giovanardi.
Having been nudged out in the first race, Darren Turner's afternoon went from bad to worse in the second as he was forced to retire from sixth place with a broken left front wishbone. Still worse was to follow for the SEAT Sport UK team on lap two as Plato slowed and could only watch as the field went past him. Plato struggled back to the pits where the team diagnosed the same misfire problems that had blighted his third race at Snetterton last time out.
Turkington proceeded to control the race with an assured drive and the Team RAC driver quickly pulled out a sizable lead. The rear wheel drive BMW 320si showed great handling and drive around the 2.2 mile undulating circuit and the Independent driver claimed his fourth win of the season by more than six seconds.
Vauxhall completed the podium places, Giovanardi edging out Onslow-Cole, but behind them a thrilling race kept the huge crowds well entertained. Independents Steven Kane, Mat Jackson and Adam Jones came out on top after tremendous drives to finish fourth, fifth and sixth respectively but all the midfield runners traded places and paintwork throughout the 15 lap event to ensure that the BTCC delivered on its promise of non-stop action.
Race three's reverse grid placed 18 year-old Andrew Jordan on pole in his Honda Integra, alongside Gordon Shedden's Honda Civic. Shedden made the better start to lead into turn one, easing out a comfortable advantage and never came under pressure during the 16 lap race to record his second win of the year.
Behind the Team Halfords driver raged a fierce battle between three Independent drivers. Jordan belied his age and inexperience by putting up a great defence of second place, only succumbing to the race-long pressure from Adam Jones' SEAT Leon on the penultimate lap. Jordan then held off the BMW 320si of the charging Mat Jackson to secure his first ever BTCC podium and trigger wild celebrations among the John Guest team.
Championship leader Fabrizio Giovanardi produced another steady performance to finish sixth behind team mate Matt Neal and extend his points advantage over his rivals.
"It was a good weekend for us and we gained points over the SEATs," said the Italian. "I wasn't in a position to win any of the races today, but to get two podiums was a good result and increases our advantage."
SEAT Sport UK patched up Plato's Leon for the final race, but having started from 17th position the Surrey driver was unable to avoid a first lap collision at the Hislop's chicane. He recovered to finish ninth and despite recording the fastest lap of the race now trails Giovanardi by 44 points in the championship.
"We've now got some performance in the Leon TDI, and we started the weekend off well," reflected Plato. "But then these mysterious engine problems intervene and prevent us scoring the points we need. It's very frustrating. We don't know what's causing the misfire, but we have to try and get to the bottom of it. As far as 2008 is concerned I think it's over. Whilst the series is still alive we'll keep on fighting, but I think Vauxhall and Fabrizio are too far ahead."
The HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship moves to Scotland for the next round on 16/17 August at Knockhill.
For full race reports, results, latest points and photos of today's action visit the BTCC's official website http://www.btcc.net/.
Leading positions BTCC Race 1 Oulton Park (provisional):
1. Jason Plato (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, 15 laps in 22mins 30.779s
2. Tom Chilton (GBR), Team Halfords/Honda Civic, +1.999s
3. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +5.958s
Fastest lap: Plato, 1m28.653s (new lap record)
Leading positions BTCC Race 2 Oulton Park (provisional):
1. Colin Turkington (GBR), Team RAC/BMW 320si, 15 laps in 22mins 23.153s2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +6.779s
3. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +7.722sFastest lap: Turkington, 1m28.516s (new lap record)
Leading positions BTCC Race 3 Oulton Park (provisional):
1. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Team Halfords/Honda Civic, 16 laps in 25mins 48.501s
2. Adam Jones (GBR), Team Air Cool/SEAT Leon, +1.393s3. Andrew Jordan (GBR), John Guest/Honda Integra, +2.226s
Fastest lap: Jason Plato, 1m28.831s
Leading Points (provisional):
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi, 198 points
2. Jason Plato, 1543. Colin Turkington, 1504. Matt Neal, 1475. Mat Jackson, 1366. Tom Onslow-Cole, 124
Manufacturers' Points (provisional):1. Vauxhall, 492
2. SEAT, 387
Teams' Points (provisional):1. VX Racing, 3992. SEAT, 2343. Team Halfords, 192
Independent Drivers' (provisional):1. Colin Turkington, 2292. Mat Jackson, 2013. Adam Jones, 201
4. Steven Kane, 131Click here for the Tom Chilton web site - designed and built by Racecar