MG Extends Championship Lead As Plato Doubles Up

Silverstone, Northamptonshire 28th September 2014 - MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save racer Jason Plato chalked up two impressive Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship victories at Silverstone today, but couldn’t prevent title rival Colin Turkington edging ever closer to the 2014 title. Sam Tordoff delivered a pair of top ten finishes, but an engine failure in race three prevented him overcoming Matt Neal in the points standings.

After a sublime qualifying performance a day prior ensured no other manufacturer held pole at Silverstone in the NGTC era, Plato led the grid away from pole-position and slotted in behind the BMW of Turkington into the first corner, Copse. Prior to the race start, Plato acknowledged the need to pass Turkington within three laps, and the MG man did just that, putting a stellar move on his Northern Irish rival at Brooklands on the third lap.

From then on, Plato eased out a slim lead, building on it in the latter stages once he got into his groove, finishing 1.453s ahead and bagging a valuable 20 points in the process in front of a 32,000 home crowd.

Starting on an alternative strategy to his team-mate, Tordoff selected the soft option tyres in the first race. The strategy was due to enhance his performance in the remaining races of the day, but it seemingly didn’t hinder his ability to attack in the first race of the day, with the Yorkshire ace finishing fourth, surrendering his third place starting position to Mat Jackson’s Ford on the first lap.

Race two began in increasingly humid conditions at the Northamptonshire circuit, with Plato on pole and Tordoff fourth. Similar to the first race, Turkington leapt into the lead at Copse, with Plato shuffling in behind, biding his time for an opportunity to pass. Tordoff dropped two places off the start and allowed Alain Menu and Rob Collard to pass, dropping the 25-year-old to sixth.

BRDC director Plato overcame Turkington on lap two with yet another textbook manoeuvre, a bold overtake into Brooklands, right in front of the crowd watching in the resplendent BRDC Clubhouse. Learning from the previous race, Plato got his head down earlier and delivered a smooth and consistent succession of laps to build a buffer and take his 87 BTCC victory, his second of the day, his thirteen podium appearance of the season.

After fairing better than expected on the soft tyre, Tordoff struggled with the harder compound Dunlop rubber, giving up sixth to Jordan on lap ten, getting the place back with Collard’s tumble down the order six laps later. A red flag brought the race to a premature close, with both MG drivers in the mix to benefit from the reverse grid draw.

The third race of the weekend was atmospherically cooler, but the action on track was red hot. Sam benefited most from the grid draw, and Jason lined up seventh, with champion-elect Turkington just ahead in sixth.

Bad luck hit the #88 car once again after a brief respite; on the approach to the grid Sam felt the engine power drop and on the grid the engine cut out. The engine restarted, but all was not right and when the lights went out on the start gantry, a plume of smoke signalled the end of the race for the BRDC SuperStar.

Once underway, the opening laps of the race were somewhat of a procession as Fabrizio Giovanardi’s third-placed Ford backed up five cars, one of which was the remaining MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save MG of Plato.

Turkington, also in the train of cars, bided his time but eventually made a clumsy challenge on the Italian’s Ford, inadvertently bringing Menu into contention. The trio of champions, with five titles between them, headed out of Woodcote side-by-side on lap 20 and Plato sat back, waiting for an opportunity to arise; he wouldn’t have to wait long.

On the approach to Becketts, opportunity knocked and Plato followed Turkington up the inside of Giovanardi; in doing so the Oxford-based ace ushered Menu wide. Turkington parked the BMW on the apex and a soft tap under braking from Plato ensured both title contenders made it past the Ford and Volkswagen. It was a fantastic sequence of events that had the crowd on their feet, and post-race Plato acknowledged the move as a highlight of the weekend.

Over the course of the final laps Plato and Turkington could be separated by tenths, and at the flag the BMW finished ahead of the MG by just 0.715s.

Going into the final round of the 2014 season, Plato trails Turkington by 50 points, five points closer than prior to Silverstone. However, while 67 points are for the taking in a fortnight at Brands Hatch, the team remain focused on sealing a maiden Manufacturer’s title for MG. The 2014 season finale takes place on the GP circuit at the historic Kent track (October 11-12, 2014) with the Greatworth-based squad looking to add to its impressive 22-title haul.

Jason Plato
“It was a fantastic weekend. That’s what we’ve got to do now; win races. The championship is realistically gone, but winning races is what it’s all about. The manufacturer’s championship is at the forefront of my mind and at all costs we must win this. It’s a shame Sam had his issue as we’ve dropped some points there, but we’re still in the lead. Second is safe in the driver’s standings, there’s not a lot I can really do to stop Colin, so it’s game on now for wins. We’ve got to go to Brands, hope it rains and try to win more races. I was really pleased with my two overtakes on Colin today; the second was in particular really pleasing. It was a very serious over take, massive commitment and a bit of psychology in there too. Then in race three there was another important move. I knew coming out of Woodcote that something would happen into Becketts with the three ahead of me. As we went into Copse it was apparent where I needed to be, Colin had the overlap on Menu and knowing Colin as I do, I knew he wouldn’t back out, even if it meant going on the grass a little. I thought if I get behind him, I could also get the overlap on Menu. Colin did exactly what I would’ve done and got on the brakes early, which prevented me from getting under him too. I got two; it would’ve been nice to get three! The team gave me the quickest front-wheel-drive car yet again, and I think we go to Brands looking really good for wins.”

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Silverstone
Silverstone Circuit Towcester Northamptonshire NN12 8TN
1.64 miles (2.63km), 6-turn race circuit
September 27-28, 2014

2014 BTCC driver standings (after round 27 of 30)
1 Colin Turkington (eBay Motors) 417
2 Jason Plato (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save) 367
3 Gordon Shedden (Honda Yuasa Racing) 317
4 Mat Jackson (Airwaves Racing) 283
5 Andrew Jordan (Pirtek Racing) 279
6 Rob Collard (eBay Motors) 251
7 Matt Neal (Honda Yuasa Racing) 207
8 Sam Tordoff (MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save) 207

2014 BTCC Manufacturers Championship
1 MG/Triple Eight 846
2 Honda/Dynamics 818

2014 BTCC Teams' Championship
1 eBay Motors 669
2 MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save 564
3 Honda Yuasa Racing 525