Wins for two title contenders and Mat Jackson on brilliant day of BTCC racing at Rockingham.
Honda Yuasa Racing’s Gordon Shedden moved back to the top of the 2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after scoring an impressive win and a further podium at Rockingham.
Mat Jackson triumphed in the opening race before Shedden’s success, whilst Jason Plato responded in style with his own fantastic victory in a memorable finale.
After taking his first BTCC pole position in six years and Motorbase Performance’s first-ever qualifying top spot on Saturday, Jackson duly added a race win to his weekend’s impressive tally.
Jackson’s Ford Focus shot off the line and never looked back in Sunday’s opener, as a number of title protagonists endured mixed results.
An incident also involving Tom Ingram and Josh Cook forced Team BMR RCIB Insurance driver Plato out of contention before the end of the first tour, as three into one simply wouldn’t go on the exit of Yentwood.
Shedden went on to take the best result of the main championship challengers, despite serving a four-place grid penalty due to a procedural infringement during qualifying, A blistering start in his Honda Civic Type R left him third by the end of lap two, and the Scotsman went one better with a clean move by Aron Smith’s VW shortly after.
Shedden takes a six point lead in the championship
With the podium positions complete, misfortune struck another title contender as Matt Neal’s Honda Civic Type R suffered from a puncture on the last lap. The experienced racer did well to hang on, but he couldn’t avoid losing places to eventually finish eighth.
Shedden put his rivals further in the shade with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in race two.
Having made a textbook getaway, the 2012 champion was more than three seconds up the road before any challengers even came close to matching his lap times. By that point the damage was already done and Shedden streaked away to his fourth victory of the season.
It was to be a role reversal between Shedden and Jackson in race two, as the latter followed up his earlier victory with an impressive second place.
The fight for third was far from routine as front row starter Adam Morgan fell back into the clutches of a rampant Josh Cook. The Power Maxed Racing driver started the race from 14th on the grid but he would eventually find himself hounding Morgan after a number of impressive moves.
Jason Plato is firmly in the hunt thanks to a race three win
The Chevrolet closed down the Mercedes at an impressive rate and launched its assault on the penultimate lap. Morgan defended well at Tarzan but when Cook tried again at the same place on the final tour, he managed to scythe his Cruze down the inside of the WIX Racing A-Class before blasting across the line to the rapturous delight of his squad.
Plato then grabbed the 93rd victory of his career after eventually getting the better of a brilliant effort from Ingram, in what was a classic BTCC bout in the final race of the day.
Pole-sitter Ingram made a stellar getaway in his Toyota Avensis and produced a faultless opening to the race, as Plato was busy hauling his VW CC into second.
Team BMR RCIB Insurance driver Plato hounded Ingram throughout and crept alongside the Speedworks Motorsport car on lap four, but he couldn’t complete the move as they surged towards Yentwood.
Plato was immediately on Ingram’s tail following a brief safety car period, and he attempted the same move into Deene soon after. His young challenger again held on but even greater drama was to follow on lap 12. It was third time lucky for Plato as yet another similar attempt finally succeeded, but Ingram’s Toyota refused to go away. Despite the potential risk of losing his first ever BTCC podium, Ingram flung his car inside of Plato’s through Gracelands in what was a quite remarkable move at high speed. The packed main grandstand rose on its collective feet with cheers being heard across the circuit.
Josh Cook scored a career first podium in race two
It was clear, however, that Plato’s stealth-like VW was showing more speed late on and when the double champion repeated his trick at Deene on lap 14 there would be no comeback. Plato edged ahead and then immediately bulked Ingram up behind on the exit of Yentwood, which was enough for the championship challenger to break the tow and move clear.
Ingram fended off Turkington for second, despite another safety car period, while Neal’s Honda took fourth.
The title picture is tighter than ever with Shedden leading Plato by just six points. Neal and Turkington are also separated by six points while MG Triple Eight Racing’s Andrew Jordan remains in contention back in fifth.
Honda has extended its advantage at the top of the Manufacturers’ standings, whilst Team BMR RCIB Insurance maintained its position at the head of the Teams’ and Independent Teams’ tables. Turkington is the leading Independents’ driver, whilst Cook has moved into an unassailable lead in the Jack Sears Trophy.
Mat Jackson said: “To get pole position was great but to top it off with a win is amazing. We only just made it after a front-right puncture, but the team has given me a great car and it’s fantastic. Then to get second with 75kgs of success ballast on-board was another top result. The car stood up to it and we were reasonably close to Gordon [Shedden]. We came here to get podiums and wins and that’s what we’ve done. It has been a brilliant job by the team and we’re learning all the time.”
Gordon Shedden said: “Today just goes to show how close it is out there and how quickly everything can change. It’s been a brilliant day though – the Civic Type R has been fantastic around here but coming into today we weren’t sure how well we’d go. It could come down to just one or two points at the end of the season so I’ll take every one I can get at this stage. I’m sure it’s going to be tough for us at Silverstone but we’ve got to keep grinding out the results and getting the points – we’ve got to stay in the hunt as our car will be very quick at Brands Hatch.”
Tom Ingram’s ecstatic celebrations
Jason Plato said: “It was a brilliant race to end the day – I loved every minute of the battle with Tom [Ingram]. That will go down as one of the best battles of the season – it was good, clean and really exciting. I know how talented Tom is having mentored him in the KX Akademy over the last few years and it’s great to see him get a result like this. After the bad luck we’ve had today we needed to get a result – and now we’re back in the game. It’s been a really important weekend for us and we’ve shown our true spirit – six points to the championship lead is nothing. This one is for Justin Wilson.”
Aron Smith said: “It was a good race. After Knockhill it was important to bounce back and I’m delighted to be back on the podium. The VW came into its own and has been on song right from the go this weekend. We should be competitive at Silverstone too so we’re looking forward to the next one.”
Josh Cook said: “The Power Maxed Racing car has performed really well all weekend – we reaped the rewards of testing here and the team really deserves this for all their efforts. It’s a really special feeling to get the first podium, even more so because it came in race two and completely on outright pace and not because of a reversed grid. Adam [Morgan] defended really well but to get the position on the last corner of the last lap is fantastic.”
Race three saw an incredible battle for the lead
Tom Ingram said: “I was crying all the way around my in lap! I’m absolutely speechless, I’m such a small cog in a very big machine – I’ve got to thank everybody who’s involved from my girlfriend, my family, the team and all my sponsors. I can’t begin to describe how much it means to all of us and how over the moon we are. I tried all I could to hold onto the win, when I managed to get back alongside Jason I couldn’t believe what I was doing! It was the best race of my career without a doubt, this is what it’s all about.”
Colin Turkington said: “The guys ahead had more pace in race three so I had to manage the gap – I knew if I tried to make a move I wouldn’t have been able to pull away and it was too much of a risk. It was very entertaining to watch the battle ahead but it’s been a difficult weekend for me. To finish with good points on the board and another podium is what we needed.”
2015 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – Rockingham
1. Mat JACKSON (Motorbase Performance): 16 Laps
2. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): +1.832s
3. Aron SMITH (Team BMR RCIB Insurance): +3.686s
4. Jack GOFF (MG Triple Eight Racing): +4.317s
5. Tom INGRAM (Speedworks Motorsport): +14.622s
6. Andrew JORDAN (MG Triple Eight Racing): +17.285s
1. Gordon SHEDDEN (Honda Yuasa Racing): 16 Laps
2. Mat JACKSON (Motorbase Performance): +2.778s
3. Josh COOK (Power Maxed Racing): +5.185s
4. Adam MORGAN (WIX Racing): +5.434s
5. Matt NEAL (Honda Yuasa Racing): +6.765s
6. Rob AUSTIN (Exocet AlcoSense): +7.203s
1. Jason PLATO (Team BMR): 19 Laps
2. Tom INGRAM (Speedworks Motorsport): +1.234s
3. Colin TURKINGTON (Team BMR RCIB Insurance): +1.871s
4. Matt NEAL (Honda Yuasa Racing): +4.838s
5. Sam TORDOFF (Team JCT600 with GardX): +5.264s
6. Aron SMITH (Team BMR RCIB Insurance): +5.830s