Robert Collard and, in front of his home crowd, Dave Newsham shared the wins in today’s three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Fife’s spectacular Knockhill circuit – attended by huge numbers of people including Olympic cycling gold medal winner Sir Chris Hoy MBE.
Meanwhile the main title protagonists – Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato – all experienced a number of highs and lows. Nevertheless reigning Champion Neal has increased his advantage at the top of the table as the title race now heads into its final three rounds of 2012, starting at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on Sunday 23 September.
Plato started the day in pole position after setting the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session only to then crash out of the opening race after a tangle between his MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 and Aron Smith’s Redstone Racing Ford Focus. This left the way clear for Collard and Tom Onslow-Cole to finish first and second in their WSR-prepared eBay Motors BMWs. Shedden took third in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic while team-mate Neal was a lowly seventh.
It was the same top three in the second race as reigning Champion Neal this time finished eighth. Plato was only 11th, his car struggling with turbo-related problems.
Inverness’s Newsham, high in confidence after his maiden win at Snetterton a fortnight earlier, then took victory in the third race in his Team ES Racing.com Vauxhall Vectra. Jeff Smith followed in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic for the first podium result of his BTCC career as Neal took third. Shedden and Plato, though, both retired.
As a result Neal leaves Scotland having slightly stretched his advantage over Shedden to ten points at the top of the table. Third-placed Plato has fallen 36 points adrift of Neal having gone into Knockhill’s event just ten behind…
Hampshire racer Collard enthused: “It’s just been a fantastic day for me and the whole eBay Motors team with a pair of 1-2 results and our other car driven by Nick Foster also very strong. It’s a big ask but another day like today at Rockingham and we could be right back in the title hunt.”
And added Newsham: “I really didn’t believe a podium result let alone a win would be possible here but I banged in some really fast laps at the start of race three and that clinched it for me. I’ve had a new sponsor on board this weekend and I’m chuffed to bits.”
Worcestershire’s Neal appeared stunned to still be leading the standings. He commented: “I have no idea how I am still in front. It’s been a horrid weekend for me, but Gordon’s retirement in that third race plus a bad day for Jason as well have saved my skin.”
Fife’s Shedden said: “This was meant to be one of our stronger circuits and the next three, Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch require good straight line speed which is where we are lacking. We might still be in front but the truth is we are struggling.”
Oxford’s Plato had also expected more from Knockhill, particularly after his pole position lap. The double Champion reflected: “It’s an opportunity for us to take more points out of the Honda drivers and even take the championship lead gone begging. We’ve clearly got the performance – we’ve just had rotten luck but it’s certainly not over yet.”
Notably Irishman Aron Smith celebrated his best result to date in the BTCC with fourth in the first race. Similarly series returnee Paul O’Neill gave the Speedworks Motorsport squad a best ever finish of fourth in the second race in its Toyota Avensis.
Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Yuasa Racing Team continue to lead the Manufacturers/Constructors and HiQ Teams standings, as does Andrew Jordan the Independents Drivers Championship. However, his Pirtek Racing team has lost the lead in the Independent Teams Trophy table to eBay Motors.
Elsewhere a number of drivers were punished by officials for on-track indiscretions today. Race 1: Aron Smith received three penalty points on his competition licence and was fined £500 for an incident involving Jason Plato; Gordon Shedden received two penalty points on his licence plus an official reprimand for an incident involving Aron Smith; Daniel Welch received three penalty points and was fined £500 for an incident involving Jeff Smith. Race 2: Chris James received three penalty points and was fined £500 for an incident involving Daniel Welch.
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