Jason Plato continued to nibble away at the gap separating him from the top of the title standings in the 2009 HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) with victory in race two at Silverstone – but defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi made him work for it all the way.
With rain starting to fall before the start of the race, but the entire field braving it out on clicks, thrills and spills aplenty hung in the air, and the action would not disappoint. Both Martyn Bell and John George peeled into the pits at the end of the green flag lap, but when the lights went out pole-sitter Mat Jackson made a textbook getaway to vault into the lead from Racing Silverline team-mate Plato, as third-placed James Nash – who had celebrated his maiden BTCC rostrum finish in race one earlier in the day – finding himself swallowed up by the BMWs of points leader Colin Turkington and the fast-starting Rob Collard on the run down to Copse for the first time.
George's tyre change seemed to serve him little purpose as he half-spun in Becketts in the tricky conditions, as Jackson made good his early escape and Giovanardi demoted Nash a further position by finding a way by into fifth, with Jonny Adam, Stephen Jelley, Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal completing the initial top ten.
As the two blue Chevrolets pulled away out front, Collard set his sights on reliving Turkington of third, but that battle was ended prematurely when Giovanardi tagged the rear of the Airwaves BMW going onto the start-finish straight at the end of lap three, sending the Brands Hatch and Donington Park winner into a half-spin that shuffled the order and took the pressure off third-placed Turkington.
The ensuing place-swapping saw Giovanardi come off the better of the two from the fracas, falling back only to fifth as Collard slipped all the way back to ninth, but the Englishman would gain a bit of 'Vauxhall revenge' shortly afterwards when as he endeavoured to recover ground he tipped Neal into a spin and into the gravel trap, in a resumption of the pair's Knockhill squabble.
As Plato homed in on Jackson in the lead, the top spot changed hands into Copse at the beginning of lap seven, though the race one-winner did not make it entirely easy for his team-mate to get by. That left Jackson – visibly now struggling for traction – to focus his attentions on staving off the earnest attentions of Turkington in a bid to defend second, as the aggressive Giovanardi found a way past Nash for fourth and scented rather better still.
The onset of more rain, though, seemed to unsettle Turkington rather more than his quarry Jackson, as having closed to within three tenths of a second on the Lacetti, the Irishman slipped back again – and into the clutches of the flying Giovanardi, who was dragging Nash and his race one nemesis Jelley along for the ride. Neal went off again, all on his own this time, as VX Racing team-mate Giovanardi caught and passed Turkington for third and set his sights on Jackson, who was starting to run increasingly wide as the grip disappeared.
Nash passed Jelley for fifth into Becketts when the Team RAC ace ran wide, and the latter would shortly afterwards spin a full 360 degrees mid-track at Copse, scattering his rivals in his wake and being lucky to rejoin the fray without collecting any of them.
Up at the front, though, Giovanardi was hunting down his prey, getting alongside Jackson on the run down to Brooklands and finally finding a way by when the Englishman put two wheels onto the grass in the corner. That left the defending double champion to chase down Plato two seconds ahead of him in the lead, and a superb last lap as he excelled in the tricky conditions would enable the man from Modena to latch right onto the tail of the Chevrolet, but ultimately Plato had just done enough.
Behind the top two, Jackson settled for third this time and a fifth successive podium finish, with Turkington a distant fourth at the chequered flag – more than ten seconds in arrears – but nonetheless ensuring damage limitation for his championship lead. Tom Chilton in the rapidly improving Team Aon Ford Focus snatched fifth on the final tour with a controversial move that left Nash beached in the gravel trap after the pair had run side-by-side all the way from Copse to Maggots, with Jordan a more encouraging sixth, Adam seventh, Johnny Herbert in the points in eighth and the unfortunate Collard and the ever-consistent Paul O'Neill for Sunshine.co.uk with Tech-Speed completing the top ten.
To see the race result in full, click here