Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Jason Plato shared the wins in today’s three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Croft Circuit which were full of incident, drama and controversy. It is Neal who tonight leaves the North Yorkshire venue leading the standings by just a point from Honda team-mate Shedden as the championship enters a lengthy summer break before resuming at Norfolk’s Snetterton circuit on the weekend of 11/12 August.
Worcestershire’s Neal set the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session to take pole position for the first of today’s races in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic. He dropped to third at the start but fought back to win ahead of eBay Motors BMW driver Robert Collard and Shedden and take over at the top of the points table.
Fife’s Shedden then responded with victory in the second race to re-claim the championship lead. Neal took the runners-up spot to complete a 1-2 result for Honda – it was also the seventh win in a row for the Team Dynamics-prepared factory Civics. Behind, Rob Austin took his first podium result of the season in third in his Rob Austin Racing Audi A4.
Having missed the first race because of mechanical problems with his car, Oxford’s Plato, who hails from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, won race three to end a six-year wins drought in front of his ‘home crowd’. Tom Onslow-Cole’s eBay Motors BMW and Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Honda Civic were second and third.
Fourth place for Neal was enough to move him back ahead in the title race from Shedden who finished the race in sixth. Plato remains third in the standings, some 29 points – 20 are awarded per race win – adrift of Neal.
Neal’s win today was his fourth of the season and the reigning Champion commented: “I’m very pleased but all it does is give me the bragging rights for the next seven weeks before we get back to business. Plus maximum success ballast in my car for Snetterton! Our car, the Civic, is in a class of its own under braking and through the corners but we need to test during the break because Jason and Triple Eight Race Engineering who run the MG will come out all guns blazing in the second half of the season.”

Dalgety Bay’s Shedden, now with an unrivalled six wins in 2012, said: “I don’t mind being second at this stage – the lead is going to keep on changing hands all the way until Finals Day in October. It’s great to get another win but it’s all about scoring as well as possible in every race. I think I’ve achieved that today so job done.”

Double Champion Plato’s win was his second this year and he added: “Today’s win was crucial in making sure we keep the Hondas in sight but, as a team, we are still learning about the MG6. It’s important we manage our expectations but we have a few test days planned for the break and that will enable me to get more comfortable with the car and for the engineers to work their magic. I think we can still find another second per lap.”
Meanwhile Honda/Dynamics and the Honda Yuasa Racing Team have significantly increased their respective leads in the Manufacturers/Constructors and HiQ Teams championships. Jordan continues to lead the Independent Drivers Trophy but only just from Collard. eBay Motors has leapt from third to first in the Independent Teams Trophy ahead of Pirtek Racing which is just two points behind.
Elsewhere officials punished a number of drivers for on-track incidents during the weekend. Ollie Jackson received two penalty points on his competition licence and an official reprimand following an incident in race one involving Tony Gilham. Jackson was then handed the same penalty again after race three for an incident involving Chris James. Officials also took action after reviewing incidents in the third race at Oulton Park two weeks ago. Dave Newsham received two penalty points on his licence and an official reprimand for an incident involving Daniel Welch. Robert Collard was similarly punished for an incident involving Andrew Jordan and also received a verbal warning for a separate incident involving Mat Jackson. Will Bratt and Adam Morgan were given verbal warnings for an incident between them.

Formula One

Viva España in Valencia

Photo by MIGUEL VIDAL/Reuters

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is season’s first two-time winner. Leads the championship with 111 points, an astonishing one hundred points more than his teammate, Felipe Massa.

Fernando Alonso delivered a stunning performance to become season’s first double winner and get on top of the world championship. Sunday’s European Grand Prix, round eight in the streets of Valencia, saw two ex-Ferrari drivers share the podium with the 2005 & ’06 World Champion.

Kimi Raikkonen was second for Lotus and Michael Schumacher came in third, striking his first podium finish since returning to F1 with Silver Arrows, Mercedes.

The trend of different winner each race this year looked set to be broken after Sebastian Vettel grabbed pole position on Saturday, and shared the front row with winner of last GP in Montreal, Lewis Hamilton.

Alonso did not even make it to Q3 and started 11th on the grid, sharing row 6 with Schumacher. Did somebody say ‘misery loves company?’

Photo. HEINO KALIS/Reuters

Sebastian Vettel started from his third consecutive pole in Valencia. Third consecutive race victory was denied in Valencia despite early race domination in his Red Bull Renault-powered machine.

While Vettel was gone after the start, Alonso was coming through on the opening lap. The Spaniard muscled his Ferrari up to eighth at the end of lap one. Hamilton was almost two seconds down in second and busy holding-off Romain Grosjean in his Lotus.

The Franco-Swiss driver passed Hamilton on lap 11 as Vettel went his merry way, extending his lead and looking set for third successive victory in Valencia.

The face and pace of the race would change after Jean-Eric Vergne caused a safety car period following his rubber-to-rubber contact with the Caterham of Finn Heikki Kovalainen on lap 28.

“JEV”, the French Toro Rosso driver, would later receive a double penalty; ten-place grid penalty for the next race at Silverstone, and EU 25k fine.

Hamilton once again had issues during his pit stop and came out in sixth.

The safety car pulled in and race was on lap 34. Alonso delighted the home crowd by immediately demoting Grosjean to third and a loud roar a few corners later signaled the departure of Vettel from the European GP. The German suffered an alternator failure on his Red Bull

Grosjean, chasing new race leader Alonso, kept the hope alive of eight  different drivers winning as many races. Hamilton was less than two seconds behind Grosjean.

On lap 41 of 57 Grosjean suffers mechanical gremlins and drops out.

Hamilton, who had already expressed his concern to the team of possible tire issues, resists intense pressure from Raikkonen but gets pushed back to third with only two laps remaining.

Last lap. Enter Pastor Maldonado in the rear view mirror of Hamilton’s McLaren. The feisty and erratic Venezuelan was pushed off the track and returns to the racing line and runs into Hamilton, ending the day for championship leader; Maldonado, sans front wing, soldiered on to collect the final championship point from 10th place finish.

Alonso – The Ace of Oviedo

“A world-class drive”, is how David Coulthard described Alonso’s 29th F1 victory.

The Spaniard now leads the championship with 111 points. Mark Webber, fourth on Sunday, is next on 91 points. Hamilton’s tally is 88 points, two more than defending double world champion Vettel. Nico Rosberg completes the top five in the standings with 75 points.

Red Bull leads the constructors’ championship with 176 points. McLaren is second on 137 points. Lotus third with 126 points. Ferrari is fourth with 122 points, only 11 courtesy of Felipe Massa. Fifth is Mercedes with 92 points.

Alonso said in the post race press conference:

“It’s difficult to express in words what is the feeling now. Winning a home grand prix is something unique – a very special feeling.

“I had the opportunity to do this in Barcelona in 2006 with Renault and I still remember that day perfectly. And now I did the same here in Valencia, with this special team, Ferrari, with all the grandstand full of red color and Spanish flags.

“Here now, with the Euro football championship also, there is a lot of Spanish atmosphere inside all of us. Feeling very proud to be a Spanish sportsman at the moment and winning in Spain this race is probably the best victory I ever felt in terms of emotions.

“Nothing maybe compares to this one.”


— Nasir Hameed


P.S. “Okay, I cancel delivery of Samsung big screen TV.”