Title fight hots up as BTCC heads into home straight
Snetterton saw title rivals Jason Plato and Fabrizio Giovanardi clash on the track for the first time this season, lighting the touch paper for what is sure to be an explosive run to the chequered flag. With nine races remaining, over three race weekends, Plato holds a 14-point advantage with more than 150 still up for grabs.
It was the third race at Snetterton that saw Giovanardi and Plato lock horns, but there was plenty on action earlier on in the day, as Plato clashed with reigning champion Matt Neal in the race one. Starting alongside the Honda driver on the grid, Plato led Neal into the first corner, but it was Neal who made an ambitious move up the inside, sending Plato wide and sending the Civic darting across the track, right into the path of Giovanardi.
Plato feels it was a move that determined how his day would run: “Our weekend’s been messed up by people driving into me”, said the former champion. “In particular, Matt Neal. The first race was hideous. That’s really triggered what could have been a really great weekend to be not such a good one. The SEAT Leon was very good around here, but we need to be at the front. We do all our work, get a brilliant start and then get taken off at the first corner by Matt in one of those sorts of move that only Matt makes. That’s not on. But it’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last.”
Plato’s misery continued as he saw Giovanardi clinch victory in the second race of the day, but with the pair separated by just Matt Neal on the reverse grid for race three, a much-anticipated showdown between the two rivals looked like it could be on the cards. And they did not disappoint.
Plato was up to second position in the latter stages of the race, with Mat Jackson in third, ahead of Giovanardi. There had been contact between Giovanardi and Matt Neal earlier in the race, but it was not until lap 15 that it started to explode.
Plato takes up the story: “As we were going up to the Esses, no contact had been made. Coming into the Esses, the right-hander, contact was made with the back of my car, by Mat Jackson. That put me out of control. Then I’ve go no wing mirrors, no idea where anybody is, then Giovanardi’s there and clunk, we’ve tapped. How can I be blamed for that?”
“I came under pressure from Mat going down the back straight, I defended and I got turned around. Simple as that.”
Plato and Giovanardi ended up side-by-side on the grass, with the Vauxhall driver managing to rejoin the track ahead, before going on to finish third. With Plato fourth, it was more points that the Italian had cut out of Plato’s championship lead.
“Now I have shown Jason who is boss”, said Giovanardi after the race. “People were amazed that I kept the car on track with all the fighting, but it’s quite easy really. You have just to have open vision of the situation. You have to expect the hit from the other driver.”
“I really enjoy it when I have to drive hard. We race to enjoy, not to be angry. To crash is ok. It was good fun, but I can do better…I can do better.”
The tight Brands Hatch Indy circuit is the ideal venue for an encore in the Plato vs Giovanardi action. The SEAT driver won two races there earlier in the year, but just how will he fare as the BTCC heads back to Kent for rounds 22, 23 and 24?