‘Locals’ Matt Neal, Andrew Jordan and Mat Jackson shared the wins in today’s three highly-dramatic Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races on their home circuit of Donington Park in which defending Champion Jason Plato suffered a high-speed crash.
But leaving the Leicestershire venue it is rising star James Nash who sensationally leads the points standings as the UK’s premier motor racing series now heads south to the Thruxton circuit in Hampshire for its next exhilarating round on Sunday 1 May.
Having achieved a second straight pole position on Saturday with another new qualifying lap record, Droitwich’s Neal went on to win today’s first race – his second victory in a row – in his turbocharged Team Honda Racing Civic. He also set a new race lap record. Second and third were the Vauxhall Vectras of Pirtek Racing’s Jordan and 888 Racing with Collins Contractors’ Nash.
In race two (as pictured) it was Lichfield racer Jordan’s turn to take victory ahead of Nash and Neal. But the race’s big talking point was Plato’s crash, his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze running off the track at an estimated 120mph before striking a barrier and rolling three times. Plato was unharmed but it seemed his day was done…
Warwickshire’s Jackson then avoided a pile-up ahead of him in race three to come through for his and his Airwaves Racing’s first victory with its new Ford Focus. He also became the fourth winner out of the season’s opening six races. Jordan and Nash took second and third places to impressively make it podium results in all three of today’s races. The star of the show, though, was Plato – in just 90 minutes, his RML crew had repaired his battered car and he rewarded them with an emotional sixth place.
Incredibly, as a result it is Nash, yet to win a BTCC race, who now leads the points table thanks to his consistently high scoring – indeed, he has finished in the top six in every race so far this season. But close behind him are Neal, Jackson, Jordan and Plato. Significantly, Jordan achieved the highest cumulative score of anyone today and it has helped get his title hopes back on track after a torrid opening round at Brands Hatch.
Nash, aged 25 from Newport Pagnell, said: “It feels unreal to be leading. Last year we really struggled but have transformed the car this year with the new turbo engine. I’m actually now starting to get disappointed by just being on the podium – I really want that first win.”
Former double champion Neal commented: “It was starting to look good earlier on with the win and the championship lead but my car was damaged in race three so seventh was a relief. We’re still right in there fighting. It sounds clichéd but fortunes turn around so quickly in this championship – just look at Jason today.”
Henley-in-Arden’s Jackson was left to rue what might have been, adding: “Of course victory in race three is a fantastic result for everyone in the team, particularly after the work we’ve put into improving the Focus. But I twice ended up off the track today after contact so it could easily have been us leading the way.”
And said Jordan: “We’ve really got our car singing now after experimenting with the turbo engine last season and we’re still improving. I genuinely believe we can now go on from here and mount a serious championship challenge.”
Notably, several other drivers made their mark at Donington. Tom Onslow-Cole gave the small AmD Milltek Racing.com team’s VW Golf a first-ever points finish. Pirtek’s Jeff Smith also achieved a career-best fifth and there were maiden top ten results for the Airwaves and WSR teams’ rookies Liam Griffin and Nick Foster.
Elsewhere, Honda/Dynamics leads the Manufacturer/Constructor table as does Honda Racing the HiQ Teams Championship, while Nash and 888 Racing with Collins Contractors have moved to the top of the Independent drivers and teams’ standings respectively.