Touring Cars: Thompson and Plato give Seat ideal start at Brands

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The Independent Online

Seat won all three races at the opening round of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch as the event came to a early climax when the reigning champion Matt Neal crashed out.

James Thompson took the first two race wins in the Seat Leon and his team-mate, Jason Plato, made it a perfect day for the team over the Kent circuit's shorter Indy layout.

However, an incident involving the Team Halfords Honda Integra of Neal and Team RAC MG's Rob Collard left Neal's car in the gravel trap during the third race which had to be stopped before the scheduled full distance. But with 75 per cent of the laps having been completed the result was declared with Plato in first ahead of Collard and Colin Turkington.

With Plato looking set for a comfortable win, Neal and Collard were battling for second when the former was punted off into the barriers after being hit from behind by Collard in Paddock Hill Bend. Plato was delighted to take the win to make it a perfect day for Seat. "As a team it's been great for us," Plato said. "The Leon is a fantastic car. We knew that this weekend we had great race pace."

Collard explained he was involved in a tough battle with Neal who was trapped in his car after it collided with the barriers. "Matt had put an aggressive move on me through Clearways and when we went into Paddock Hill he braked really early," Collard said. "He caught me by surprise, I tagged him and he crashed."

Neal was not injured in the crash but because he could not get out of his car the race stewards decided to finish the race early.

Thompson had won the first two races to mark his return to the series, beating the VX Racing Vauxhall Astra of the pole position man Tom Chilton first time out. Thompson overtook Chilton in the closing stages to give the Leon a win in its maiden BTCC race.

Chilton finished second ahead of Neal, who had moved through from a lowly starting position of 15th. Thompson led all the way in race two to win ahead of Turkington and Neal, and he leads the championship points standings ahead of Turkington and Chilton.