Jason Plato and Sam Tordoff shared the spoils in the opening two races as the MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save squad showed its hand at Donington Park, before Gordon Shedden scored the first ever win for the Honda Civic Tourer in a frenetic finale.
Two-time champion Plato took a phenomenal pole position on Saturday, shaving more than six tenths of a second off the previous lap record, and he duly delivered in the opening race.
Young gun Tordoff passed the eBay Motors BMW of Colin Turkington to move into second early on before setting about attacking Plato ahead. There were clearly no team orders in play at the Triple Eight-run outfit as Tordoff hassled and harried his experienced team-mate until the chequered flag. Reigning champion Andrew Jordan claimed third for Pirtek Racing.
It was a role reversal in race two with Tordoff jumping Plato as the 31-cars roared into Redgate corner for the first time. Whilst the front two remained in command of the contest there was complete bedlam behind as two separate incidents had the huge crowd holding its collective breath.
BTCC legend Alain Menu, who has returned to the series in 2014 after 13 years away, endured a quite frightening moment on the opening lap. Minor contact with another car left the Swiss driver’s VW out of control at high speed and spinning wildly across the damp grass. The rollercoaster ride didn’t stop there, as his car speared back across the race track with a gaggle of cars approaching. Thankfully everyone was able to take immediate avoiding action and Menu’s car eventually came to rest in the gravel trap.
The drama continued after a safety car period when American racer Robb Holland and young Brit James Cole heavily damaged their cars in another spectacular shunt. Both cars made contact on the approach to Craners in avoidance of another spinning car before simultaneously being fired into the barrier, bringing a premature end to their respective day’s racing.
Back up at the front and Tordoff held on from Plato by just over a second, with Honda Yuasa Racing’s Shedden completing the podium.
Things would get even better for Scotsman Shedden when he won the final race of the weekend after a sensational last corner pass on Turkington.
With tussling taking place throughout the order it had seemed as though Turkington was home and dry after scampering clear in the early stages. Shedden initially made steady progress from fourth on the grid, but after disposing of team-mate Matt Neal and Plato’s MG6 he began to reel in the BMW ahead of him at a phenomenal rate.
As the duo began the final lap they were nose-to-tail with Turkington in full defensive mode. They went side-by-side on a number of occasions in the first half of the tour before doing so again on the approach to the final chicane. Both were seemingly late on the brakes and the two machines ran off the circuit, with Shedden returning to the tarmac first to cross the line ahead of the Ulsterman.
It was an extraordinary climax to a quite outstanding day of Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship racing at Donington Park. The fallout from the event sees Jordan and Plato joint at the top of the drivers’ standings with Shedden just a point further back. Turkington is four points off the championship summit, whilst Neal completes the early title picture.
Britain’s premier motor sport series now moves on to the fastest circuit in the UK, Thruxton in Hampshire, which is sure to provide a further three octane-fuelled thrillers over the weekend of 3-4 May.
Jason Plato said: “It’s nice to get a win in such tricky conditions. Race two was a mega result for the team. It’s so pleasing we’ve got a car working well in the wet and now we’re confident in all conditions. We didn’t quite get the set-up right in race three – I’ve got a pretty good idea of what the problem was and it’s just one of those things really. The target is to score 40 points every weekend, and if we do we’ll win, it’s a simple as that. The changes we’ve made over the winter to the front aero will help next time at Thruxton, and we were quick there last year. Let’s get another big haul of points there.”
Sam Tordoff said: “That was a fantastic win. It was really difficult to be honest and probably one of the hardest races I’ve ever driven, but I’ll take that result any day of the week! I aspire to be one of these top guys and that means beating JP (Plato) too, so I’m delighted. Overall it’s been a very very good weekend. We got back to the front, which is where we need to be. A second and a first is great, but I must admit I am a bit disappointed with the way race three went, but we’re back in the hunt for the championship.”
Gordon Shedden said: “What a race! From just managing to miss Andrew Jordan in turn one I was miles away from the lead, but the Tourer just came alive on the soft tyres. What a fantastic job the team has done, as soon as I got into clear air I couldn’t believe how good it was, I had so much traction all the way around. With five laps to go I was six seconds behind, and what a last lap. History has been made with a first win for the Tourer.”
Colin Turkington said: “My pace was really good at the start of the (final) race – the car hooked up from lap one, but towards the end of the race I could practically feel the rubber being ripped off my rear tyres so naturally the pace dropped off a fair bit! I had to graft hard, but we got a good haul of points this weekend and to be honest Donington has never been one of our strong circuits. It’s good to have stayed at the sharp end and now we’re going to some tracks, which should suit our car better.”