Jason Plato now has more wins in the 2008 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship than any other driver after victory in round 19 at Oulton Park. It was a dominant performance from the SEAT Sport UK driver who was never threatened after starting from pole position at the sunny Cheshire circuit.
Plato led away from the line, but in the second SEAT, Darren Turner was passed by Tom Chilton in the Team Halfords Honda Civic. Fabrizio Giovanardi was fourth away from the line, with fellow VXR Vectra driver Tom Onslow-Cole just behind him. In the third of the Vectras, Matt Neal picked up a driver-through penalty for starting out of position on the grid.
As Plato opened up a lead at the front, second placed Chilton was forced to defend from Turner. In the process of challenging Chilton, Turner allowed Giovanardi to close up on his tail, the SEAT driver to defend as well as attack. On lap four, Turner took to the inside of Chilton at Old Hall and looked to be on for second, only to cut across the front of the Honda, sending the SEAT sideways down the hill. Turner caught the Leon, but it was too late to stop him dropping right down the order.
With Turner out of the way, championship leader Giovanardi was chasing Chilton in second, with teammate Onslow-Cole riding shotgun behind him. Behind Onslow-Cole, Gordon Shedden lost out to Team RAC’s Colin Turkington for fifth position, and was also passed by the recovering Darren Turner.
After struggling in qualifying, the Motorbase pairing of Steven Kane and Rob Collard were running strongly, closing quickly on the edge of the top ten. Meanwhile, fellow BMW driver Mat Jackson straight-lined the chicane, losing him several places.
Another driver enjoying a strong run in the opening race at Oulton was Mike Jordan in the Team Eurotech Honda Integra. He was running eighth having passed Gordon Shedden, but would not go on to finish the race. Going along the pit straight, Jordan was tagged from behind by Shedden. It was only a gentle tap, but it was enough to turn the front end of Integra into the pitwall, which Jordan hit before bouncing back across the track before coming to rest on the outside of Old Hall. A frustrated Jordan Snr was quickly out of the car and his frustration was clear.
Into the last couple of laps and the top three positions looked safe. That said, the ballast-free Onslow-Cole in fourth looked like he could have challenged Giovanardi for third, but it was always unlikely he would do anything to harm his teammate’s championship challenge. Indeed, Onslow-Cole dropped back from Giovanardi, into the clutches of the leading independent runner Colin Turkington, by whom he was passed at Old Hall on the final lap.
At the chequered flag, Plato took the win ahead of Chilton, Giovanardi, Turkington and Onslow-Cole. Darren Turner was sixth, with Gordon Shedden seventh and Adam Jones eighth. Steven Kane and Rob Collard rounded out the top ten for Motorbase Performance.
Racewinner Jason Plato said, “We’ve arrived now at a place with the car that we needed to arrive at in pre-season testing. We’ve got something we can work with now. All the way through the year we’ve been making changes but there’s only so much you can do on race weekends, so we really used the mid-season test to our advantage. We’ve still got some things we can do with the car. We’ve worked hard as a team and we deserve the success we’re getting at the moment.”