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Plato survives sprint race carnage
9 July 2000
Jason Plato kept his nerve and survived no less than two interventions from the pace car to take a well deserved win in the sprint race at Snetterton.
Vauxhall finally had something to celebrate as Jason Plato out manoeuvred his rivals to take victory in the sprint race at Snetterton. The race was dry throughout and the dusky conditions may have given some drivers a little problem when it came to visibility which could account for the two major accidents that punctuated the race in its early stages.
Plato in the Vectra was able to outdrag the heavier Ford Mondeo of Rickard Rydell off the line and into Sears for the first time. Behind the leading pair Tom Kristensen tucked the Honda into third place while Vincent Radermecker, James Thompson and Anthony Reid all disputed fourth place. At the back of the grid Gabriele Tarquini had made short work of the Class B machinery and was up to tenth behind Alain Menu and Matt Neal by the end of Revett straight.
However this battle got a bit too close for comfort a short while later when Reid attempted a pass on the Honda coming out of the Bombhole. Thompson moved over to cover his position and contact was made, the Honda spearing into the barriers and coming to rest at the edge of the track.
This was enough to bring out the safety car as the stricken Honda was removed and Plato dutifully lined the rest of the field up for two slow laps. Behind him, Rydell and Kristensen both knew that they had been given a second bite at the apple and would both be gunning for Plato into the first corner. Radermecker still held onto fourth while Reid continued, apparently unscathed in fifth ahead of Yvan Muller and Menu.
When the field were unleashed for a second time, Plato once again got the drop and pulled out some fresh air into Sears but Kristensen took a dive down the inside of Rydell in an attempt to wrest second place away from the Swede. Rydell defended well though and was able to hold his place. Coming down Revett straight though, Kristensen was able to drag past the Mondeo and tuck into second place as the two drivers approached the chicane.
Behind them however there was chaos as Reid, Muller and Radermecker all made contact. Reid had challenged Radermecker on the inside of Riches but was blocked, contact was made which saw Radermecker swerve into the path of his closely following team-mate Muller, behind them both Menu and Neal arrived to a wall of smoke. Both drivers instinctively moved to the outside of the track but Muller's car was already there. Neal had time to move to the right but Menu didn't and the Mondeo gave the Vectra a hefty thump before cannoning into the outfield.
Once again Reid survived with only cosmetic damage whereas Radermecker, Muller and Menu were all out on the spot. Neal therefore inherited fifth place behind Neal while Tarquini in the only other surviving Super Touring machine, was now sixth.
Once again the safety car was deployed as the course workers cleared the wreckage. Hearts in the Vauxhall garage must have sunk to an all time low as two of their three cars were put on the back of the rescue vehicle although they still had Plato to salvage their day for them.
After another three slow laps it was green flags once again with Kristensen now tucked right under the bootlid of the leading Vectra. Jason however judged the start perfectly once again and was able to fend off the Honda's attentions into Riches. Kristensen had another look down Revett straight forcing Plato to cover his line although the Dane was now coming under pressure from Rydell and had to back off.
The first lap was completed without drama and by the end of it Plato had eked out a few car lengths over Kristensen who in turn had moved clear of Rydell. Reid, whose car was feeling slightly odd after suffering two assaults from other machines, was still managing to keep the pressure on Rydell while Neal was defending his fifth place with great determination from Tarquini.
As the race wore on Plato was able to stabilise the gap to Kristensen at just over a second. The Vauxhall was working exceptionally well in the cool conditions and from mid-distance Plato's only worries concerned the lapping of the Class B machinery. Thankfully everyone behaved themselves and Plato was left to reel off his first win at Snetterton.
Kristensen remained in reasonably close contention throughout and occasionally closed in on the Vectra whilst lapping traffic although he never got close enough to attempt a pass. The Danish driver was not bothered by the fading light as several others were thanks to his recent Le Mans experience and was quite happy to gain valuable points in his quest for a top five finish in the championship.
Rydell meanwhile found the burden of 40 kilos of success ballast too much for his Mondeo and he eventually dropped more than five seconds on Plato. In the latter stages of the 22 lap encounter, Rydell found his third place under increasing attack from Reid who closed to within half a second of his team-mate at the end.
Matt Neal finished fifth, ten seconds behind the winner to continue his good run of recent form. Tarquini had given the Independent Nissan driver a good run for his money for much of the race, relentlessly hassling the lanky Englishman for all he was worth until a late race problem forced him to drop back.
In Class B Alan Morrison had to overcome starting from the back of the grid after his Peugeot failed a post One Shot Showdown technical inspection, but still took the class win and seventh place overall.
Remarkably the Class B brigade behaved themselves impeccably and the only retirement was that of Robert Collard who lost a top three finish in the final six laps.
Behind Morrison, James Kaye followed the Peugeot passed the rest of the class to take second place after a good scrap with Barwell team-mate Mark Lemmer and Collard.
Despite his retirement, Menu kept his championship lead during the break between races thanks to Reid's exclusion from the Croft feature race. However the Swiss driver cannot afford another debacle like he suffered in the sprint race.