Crash.Net BTCC News
Round 29: One race, one point
14 October 2007
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.
Eating away at the gap, Plato was catching Giovanardi and dragging Neal with him, creating a superb spectacle back up the hill towards Campbell for the 14th time, the trio line astern with nothing to separate them.
Sensing an opportunity to attack on a corner that he has proved visibly faster on, Plato suddenly dived down the inside of the Vectra, the pair rubbing doors and bouncing off one another onto the grass. Far from shirking though, both drivers kept the accelerator pedal planted to resume back onto the circuit back in first and second, albeit with a gap between the two now.
It was the final decisive moment of the 16 lap race, Plato catching up again before settling for second place behind Giovanardi at the end of one of the finest – and closest – battles the BTCC has seen for some time.
Neal was a slightly disappointed third, his correct line around the Complex seeing him lose out considerably to the two in front of him in the final laps, but nonetheless proving he will give away his crown with a fight.
Just behind, Colin Turkington took a strong fourth place finish after battling with Mat Jackson in the closing stages, a tussle that actually took both drivers past Alain Menu, the Swiss driver unable to get into the fight at the front and help Giovanardi out.
It was a crucial fourth place for Turkington too as it gives him the 2007 Independent title, results pending.
Tom Coronel again kept his nose clean to come away with a seventh place finish in his SEAT, but he will have a much larger role to play in the third and final race as it will be him who will start from pole position after '7' was picked on the 'wheel of fortune' to decide the reverse grid.
Mike Jordan therefore misses out on a spot at the front of the grid, something he will be frustrated with after a superb drive through the field from the back of the grid, a drive that was defined by a move around the outside of three rivals at the Club Chicane.
Tom Onslow-Cole held off Tom Chilton and Darren Turner to claim two more points for ninth, with the two recovering drivers crossing the line in 10th and 11th.
Elsewhere, there was disappointment for Shedden after he slowed on lap three with a mechanical problem, while Matt Allison failed to finish when he was involved in a clash with Erkut Kizilirmak and Martyn Bell on the first lap. Rob Collard also failed to make the finish when he bounced into Adam Jones on the outside of Campbell and broke his front suspension.
With one race remaining and one point separating the two drivers, Plato and Giovanardi start sixth and seventh for the 30th and final race of season – a Grandstand finish if there ever was one...