Motorsport: Plato edged out by Giovanardi in tense final round

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The Independent Online

Italy's Fabrizio Giovanardi claimed the British Touring Car title at Thruxton yesterday after Jason Plato was denied the chance to stage a grandstand finish as the red flag brought a premature end to the final race of the season.

Giovanardi's second place behind winner Mat Jackson in the finale came after he secured crucial victories in the first two races to establish a slender one-point advantage over SEAT's Plato heading into the dramatic decider.

Plato, who led by nine points at the start of the day, finished second to the VX Racing driver in both race one and two, but fourth place was not enough for the Briton in a third race cut short by Mike Jordan's big accident on lap 15.

Giovanardi's treble podium means he claims the title by just three points after 30 races, scoring 300 points to Plato's 297.

Giovanardi told Setanta Sports: "To win the title like that is amazing because we had to fight to the end. A one-point gap going into the last race meant that the pressure was very high.

"I could not share the title with Plato, but I can share it with my team because the Vauxhall was very good. It's taken a lot of effort to achieve this with a brand-new car.

"I have won touring car titles before but this is the toughest."

In the final race, Giovanardi got the jump on Plato after the pair had lined up eighth and seventh on the starting grid respectively.

Giovanardi quickly made his way up to third after reigning champion Matt Neal - rumoured to be joining VX Racing in 2008 - waved the Italian through.

That will have pleased Neal's potential new employers no end, as will his reluctance to extend the same courtesy to Plato after also waving through Giovanardi's team-mate Tom Chilton.

On lap 12 Plato finally muscled past arch-rival Neal but lost time in the remaining laps as the Team Halfords man sought to bully him off the road.

Plato finally managed to put some daylight between himself and Neal with just two laps remaining, but as he was lining up a pass on Chilton, Jordan crashed heavily in the final corner to force the race stewards to end the race one lap early.

"It was very close, but it all hung on the final race where I didn't get a very good start, so unfortunately that will have to go down to me," Plato told Setanta Sports.

"I knew that if the Vauxhalls came past then they would gang up as a team. It was a great fight for the championship but it just didn't go our way. The best man won on the day."

Vauxhall's fine weekend sees them claim the manufacturers' title from SEAT, while Plato's SEAT Sport UK squad lift the teams' trophy and Team RAC BMW driver Colin Turkington was crowned the winner of the independents' series.