Reid takes title-fight to Vauxhall with double win on home ground
Independent MG driver Anthony Reid claimed two wins in rounds 19 & 21 at Knockhill – a circuit which is just five miles from where the 47 year-old went to school. Jason Plato once again played the reverse grid system to perfection, taking victory for Seat Sport UK in the second race of the day.
VX Racing’s Yvan Muller continues to lead the drivers’ championship, but now by just a single point from team-mate James Thompson, whilst Reid halved the gap to the top two at Knockhill and now sits just 22 points behind Thompson. What is more, Thompson and Muller have made only one visit each to the podium in the last six races, compared with five for Reid and team-mate Turkington. And the MGs have set the fastest lap all but one of those races.
Knockhill also had it’s fair share of incident and controversy: James Thompson suffered a high-speed qualifying shunt which saw his VX Racing crew work through until 1am to get the car ready to race; Colin Turkington was handed a time penalty for passing Yvan Muller under a yellow flag in round 19; Jason Plato almost came unstuck as he played for 10th position in race one; Tom Chilton defied gravity taking to two wheels through Duffus Dip. And Anthony Reid picked up a one race suspended ban.
The grid for the first BTCC race in Scotland for two years saw Anthony Reid already giving the crowd something to cheer about, as he put his 4-cylinder West Surrey Racing MG ZS on to pole position, with a time of 54.676 secs, just 0.036 ahead of Tom Chilton in the Team Honda Civic Type-R in 2nd.
“The MG is going sensationally well at the moment”, said Reid after qualifying. “But I really had to earn my dinner there. We had to fight back and find a good lap and that is exactly what we managed to do.”
With Jason Plato proving last time out that a good grid position for the second race can stand you in good stead for the rest of the day, the question of first race tactics had been a hot topic. But there was only one tactic in Anthony Reid’s mind. The Scot led away from the lights and was never troubled on the way to victory.
The fight for second spot between Tom Chilton, James Thompson and Colin Turkington gave Reid a certain amount of breathing space at the front. Chilton held his ground at the start to claim the position, but it only took Thompson two laps to find a way around the outside of the youngster. Several laps later and Chilton made a mistake at MacIntyres, allowing Turkington through to third.
Just after the mid-point of the race, Turkington put Thompson under pressure, and the pair ran side-by-side around Taylors and along the straight before the MG driver slid through to secure second position, and what looked like a 1-2 for WSR. However Turkington was later deemed to have passed Thompson under the yellow flags that were out to warn of Fariqe Hairuman’s Proton beached in the gravel at the hairpin. Turkington, who studies in Scotland, was handed a 7.5 second penalty which dropped him to fourth in the results.
Just as intriguing as the race at the front was the race to be 10th – and claim pole position for race two. After Plato won two races at Croft after dropping back in race one, Matt Neal and the Computeach Racing with Halfords team said they would be playing the same card…and that is just what they did. Neal and Plato became engaged in a race to see who could drop back further, after both allowed Rob Collard and Shaun Watson-Smith to pass them. However, in the closing stages of the race, Jason Hughes closed on the pair in his Kartworld Racing MG, and demoted Plato to 11th spot, albeit briefly, as the former champion stole the position back in time for the chequered flag. Hughes later revealed that he had no idea he was fighting for pole position!
With reverse grid master Jason Plato on pole position, the 2001 champ was looking to repeat the performance he put on the last time the live ITV cameras descended, back at the opening rounds of the year at Thruxton. Back then, no one expected the Seat Toledo to be a race-winner, but now the rest of the field is fully aware of what it can achieve in the right situation.
Plato made a strong start in the Toledo, which of course, as an ETCC-spec machine, benefits from a 50kg weight reduction over its BTCC-rivals. Plato looked on course to mimic the performance of Reid in the first race and reach the flag without a serious challenge being mounted from behind. But it was not quite that easy. With five of 22 laps remaining, the safety car came out on to the track to allow for the recovery of bodywork from Tom Chilton’s Civic, which, not for the first time this year, was scattered around the track.
With the pack bunched up for the restart, second placed Matt Neal knew his chance to attack Plato would follow. In the four remaining laps, there was contact between the two long-time adversaries but it was Plato who managed to retain the upper hand, just holding off Neal to win by 0.252 secs.
As far as the championship contenders are concerned, this was not a race to remember. It was Muller that fared the best, managing a fourth placed finish, behind Dan Eaves. James Thompson retired for just the second time this year.
Anthony Reid managed to finish seventh, but not without a dash of controversy. An aggressive move on Tom Chilton at Taylors saw him gain ground, but at the same ended the race of his team-mate Turkington. As Reid used Chilton as a cushion to take the tight line around the corner, Chilton was in turn pushed in to Turkington, damaging the MG. This was an incident that was later reviewed by the authorities and Reid was handed a fine equal to his earlier HarrierZeurios Independents Cup cheque.
Reid will also need to be on his best behaviour from now on as any further infringement will see a one-race suspended ban invoked, which could end his seemingly strengthening title aspirations.
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