Jason Plato and Fabrizio Giovanardi
will go into the final round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship with just one point separating them after an outstanding second race of the weekend at Thruxton.
Living up to its mouth watering billing, Giovanardi and Plato embarked on a stunning duel over the course of the 16 laps, with the Italian just getting the nod over his rival to get the gap down to a single point with only one race remaining later this afternoon.
Starting alongside one another at the front of the grid, Giovanardi got a superb start to pull a comfortable margin on the run up to Campbell for the first time, with a slightly slower Plato slotting in to second place and having to fend off the attention of firstly Gordon Shedden
but then Matt Neal
when the outgoing champion exited the complex in third place.
From here, it was clear who were the fastest drivers on the circuit as the top three rapidly broke away from those behind. With no team orders required to engineer the results and the added wild card of Neal getting involved, the ensuing laps always looked enticing.
Despite his comfortable win in the first race though, Giovanardi was not looking quite a easy this time around, the Vectra's advantage on the faster part of the circuit seemingly being negated by Plato's more nimble Leon through the Complex.
So much so that Plato was able to dive down the inside of Giovanardi at Cobb, clipping the back of the Vauxhall and sending it into a rather leery moment. Nonetheless, Giovanardi showed off his exceptional car control by holding onto the line, the unorthodox angle into the corner for Plato actually delaying him into Neal instead.
Indeed, for the next few laps, instead of looking forward, Plato was staring at the rear-view mirrors as the lighter Civic bounced over the kerbs with aplomb and stayed planted around the bends, just inches separating the pair at various points on the circuit.
The Club Chicane was a particularly successful corner for Neal as he squeezed his way alongside over the pit straight, the two side-by-side with barely anything between them. However, while Neal got the nose of his Civic ahead, Plato's superior braking capability kept him in second place.
Far from deterring him though, Plato pushed on, the gap between himself and Giovanardi getting up to just over a second, before he began reeling him in again.