Plato masters difficult circuit

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The Independent Online

Jason Plato regained the lead of the British Touring Car Championship with a double win and a maximum points score at the tight, tricky Knockhill circuit in Scotland.

"It's been a mega weekend," said the Englishman, whose title rival, Yvan Muller, only finished one of the two races. "I knew it was coming," continued Plato, who feels that he and his engineer have made significant progress in finding a set-up for his Vauxhall Astra Coupe. Another successful weekend for the dominant Vauxhall squad secured the manufacturers' championship just one race beyond the season's mid-point.

Plato won the longer feature race by a comfortable margin, leading from pole position and then taking advantage as his major rivals hit problems.

James Thompson, in the Egg Vauxhall, was second for much of the race, but lost ground with a slow pit stop and then had to manhandle the car home third when the power steering failed. Muller had earlier retired after it suffered the same problem.Phil Bennett inherited second in his Egg Astra and Steve Soper brought in his Peugeot in fourth.

Plato had earlier won the sprint race, despite fluffing his start from pole. Plato's pace advantage over his French title rival this weekend had given him real confidence. "It was just a case of forcing him into making a little mistake, which he did." Muller had slid on the exit to the chicane and Plato passed on the way into the following corner.

Muller had to defend second place from Thompson, but a race-long brake problem hindered Thompson's progress and he eventually settled for third. Closing in over the final laps was the impressive fourth-placed series debutant Thomas Erdos. The Brazilian has taken over the Lexus IS200 from Kurt Luby and was the fastest man on the track over the closing laps.

Simon Graves won the BTC Production class in the sprint, hunting down another series debutant, Scot Gordon Shedden in the later stages of the race and just beating Plato across the line in the handicap-style race. Shedden held on to win the feature despite taking a hefty shove from Graves, which put Graves out of the race.

BRITISH TOURING CAR CHAMPIONSHIP Round 13 (Sprint race, 20 laps): 1 S Graves (GB), Honda 19min 30.059sec; 2 J Plato (GB), Vauxhall +1.208sec; 3 G Shedden (GB), Ford +1.267; 4 Y Muller (FR), Vauxhall +1.762, 5 S Harrison (GB), Peugeot +5.366; 6 J Kaye (GB), Honda +5.629; 7 J Thompson (GB), Vauxhall +7.878; 8 T Erdos (BRA), Lexus at 9.599; 9 P Bennett (GB), Vauxhall +14.641; 10 R Collard (GB), Renault at 23.934.

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