Jason Plato led from start-to-finish to secure victory in the opening HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Oulton Park.
Plato came home ahead of Tom Chilton and defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi for a fifth win of the season to maintain his hopes of catching the Italian in the race for the title.
At the start, Plato was able to hold his pole position off the line, while behind, Chilton made a good start from the second row of the grid to battle his way ahead of Darren Turner to split the Leon TDis. It left Turner in third ahead of Giovanardi and Tom Onslow-Cole, while Colin Turkington completed the top six. Matt Neal however suffered a disastrous start to the race as he lined up in the wrong position on the grid and was then slow away when the lights went out – picking up a drive through penalty to compound his misery and dropping to the rear of the field as a result.
With a quicker car in the early laps, Turner did his best to find a way past Chilton to take second place and on lap two, he tried to make a move at Hislop's only for Chilton to defend the place and baulk the Leon. Luckily for Turner however, he was able to hold off the challenge of Giovanardi behind to maintain his place.
Turner continued to push Chilton and on lap four, he made his move through Old Hall and on he run down the Avenue to Dentons. However, Chilton had the inside line for Casccades and tried to reclaim the place, with contact between the two cars sending Turner into a slide he was lucky to recover from. However, the Le Mans champion slipped down to seventh place after losing momentum.
Plato was now easing away from Chilton out front, with the Honda in turn beginning to open an advantage over Giovanardi and Onslow-Cole in third and fourth. Gordon Shedden was now fifth having moved ahead of Turkington's BMW.
Shedden appeared to be holding up both Turkington and Turner behind, and on lap eight, both drivers managed to get down the inside into Old Hall to demote Shedden down to seventh place, just ahead of Adam Jones, Mike Jordan and Stephen Jelley – the trio having benefitted from Mat Jackson running straight on at Hislops and Andy Jordan being tipped into a slide while fighting with Jelley's BMW.
Jelley slipped outside the top ten on the following lap after losing out to both Steven Kane and Rob Collard on lap nine as the Motorbase pair worked their way up the order, while Mike Jordan moved ahead of Adam Jones at Lodge. Jordan then set about closing down Shedden and as the pair came up Deer Leap on twelve, the John Guest Racing man made his move and got alongside the Team Halfords Honda. However, a tap to the rear of the Integra saw Jordan turned into the pitwall with his car suffering damage to the suspension that then sent it back across the track in front of the chasing pack and into retirement. The damage sustained has put Jordan out of the rest of the day.
Shedden was able to continue, but from that point on, the main focus was on the fight for fourth place as Turkington closed onto the rear of Onslow-Cole. On the penultimate lap, the BMW dived past at Lodge but there wasn't enough time for the Northern Irishman to launch an attack on Giovanardi for third as he duly followed Plato – who broke the lap record en-route to victory - and Chilton to the flag.
Behind the top four, Onslow-Cole settled for fifth place ahead of Turner, with Shedden, Jones, Kane and Collard rounding out the top ten.
Jelley took eleventh from a disappointed Jackson, with Andy Jordan, Harry Vaulkhard and Neal rounding out the top 15. Michael Doyle, John George and Martyn Bell completed the classified finisgers, while Alan Taylor was also running at the finish, albeit 3 laps off the pace after pitting with an over-heating engine early on.
For results, CLICK HERE