AFTER SEAT STARS DOMINATE KNOCKHILL SEAT Sport UK dominated proceedings at Sunday's Knockhill rounds of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship with race wins to Jason Plato and Darren Turner. But a race three clash between Plato and VX Racing's Tom Onslow-Cole dented the SEAT driver's championship aspirations.
Plato entered the weekend trailing reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi by 44 points, but the Oxfordshire driver shaved nine points off the Italian's lead by leading every lap and winning both of the first two races - taking his season tally to seven round wins.
The consistent Giovanardi minimised the damage by trailing home Plato in the two opening races with young team-mate, Onslow-Cole taking the final spot on the podium.
Plato's team-mate Darren Turner had started the opening race from pole but contact with Onslow-Cole resulted in the SEAT driver running off the track on the opening lap - losing several spots. He began a fightback but later clashed with Tom Chilton's Honda that forced him out of the race.
Turner bounced back in race two to grab eighth place. This became a front row start for the final event after his SEAT team-mate picked the number nine marble to invert the top nine finishes for the final race.
As Turner raced away to take a comeback victory, Plato was left on the sidelines after contact with Onslow-Cole on lap nine exiting the hairpin resulted in a heavy impact with the tyre wall.
Giovanardi however, was able to complete a fifth place finish despite several near misses including a scary moment when the Italian was forced onto the grass by Colin Turkington's BMW.
The VX Racing driver now holds a 41-point lead in the championship with only two race meetings and six rounds remaining. Today's strong results by the Vauxhall trio of Giovanardi, Onslow-Cole and Matt Neal have provisionally clinched the Team's Championship for VX Racing.
The disappointed Plato was left on the sidelines to cheer Turner onto victory in the final race - joining the SEAT crew on the pit wall for the chequered flag.
"Tom was clearly under instructions to not let me past - that is fine - it is a team game as well," Plato said.
"If you do drive like that you have to appreciate if you leave a gap I am going to have a go. It was a forceful move, but a fair one. I gave him enough room on the exit of the hairpin and I've then had the biggest hit in the world on the left rear that has snapped the damper in half."
Onslow-Cole however, saw the incident differently.
"It was one of those things really. He gave me a little tap on the way in to get past which was a bit of a forceful move and I was pushed out into the gravel," he said.
"Unfortunately, rejoining the circuit we had a bit of contact. I'm sorry that it happened, there was no malice or anything like that involved. You don't do that kind of thing fighting for 10th position."
Turner was delighted to bounce back into winning form after his opening race dramas. The win was his second round victory for 2008. It came at the Scottish venue where he also tasted success last year.
"We had a lot of disappointment in race one, race two was great fun and in race three I had everything to play for," Turner said.
"Thankfully, Andrew didn't have a great start from pole and I was able to slot into the lead and pace myself from there. I am really happy for SEAT to get three race wins today and a big thanks to my guys who did a great job to get my car back on track after what happened in the first race."
Completing the podium in the final race today was Motorbase BMW driver Rob Collard and second generation racer, Andrew Jordan who scored a race three podium for the second race meeting a row.
The HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship moves to Silverstone for the next round on 30/31 August.
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 Knockhill (provisional):1. Jason Plato (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, 27 laps2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +1.582s3. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +2.173sFastest lap: Plato, 53.496s
Leading positions BTCC race 2 Knockhill (provisional):1. Jason Plato (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, 24 laps2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +1.316s3. Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +2.372sFastest lap: Darren Turner, 53.283s
Leading positions BTCC Race 3 Knockhill (provisional):1. Darren Turner (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/Seat Leon, 27 laps2. Rob Collard (GBR), Motorbase/BMW 320i, +2.166s3. Andrew Jordan (GBR), John Guest/Honda Integra, +3.059sFastest lap: Turner, 53.389 seconds
Leading Points (provisional):1. Fabrizio Giovanardi, 228 points2. Jason Plato, 1873. Colin Turkington, 1604. Mat Jackson,1554. Matt Neal, 1526. Tom Onslow-Cole, 144 etc.
Manufacturers' Points (provisional):1. Vauxhall, 5562. SEAT, 442etc.
Teams' Points (provisional):1. VX Racing, 4532. SEAT, 2823. Team Halfords, 208etc.
Independent Drivers' (provisional):1. Colin Turkington, 2562. Mat Jackson, 2383. Adam Jones, 2214. Steven Kane, 147etc.
Independent Teams' (provisional):1. Team RAC, 2712. BMW Dealer Team UK, 2453. Team Air Cool, 220