Jason Plato has taken a place in history with a 61st victory in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship after winning the first race of 2011 at Brands Hatch.
The Chevrolet driver started the race level on 60 wins with Andy Rouse but led the race virtually from start to finish to make a perfect start to the defence of his title.
After a delayed start following a collision between Rob Collard and Liam Griffin on the green flag lap, Plato made his move for the lead on lap one as he went up the inside of pole sitter Matt Neal into Druids. Plato made the move stick and was given an added bonus when Neal – the man seen as his biggest threat during the year ahead – was forced off into the gravel and forced to retire.
After a Safety Car period to retrieve the Honda, Plato was able to pull out a small lead from the Vauxhall Vectra of James Nash and led to the chequered flag despite Nash setting the quickest lap of the race en-route to second place.
Third went to the new 'Global' Ford Focus of Tom Chilton, who made up three places on the opening lap to lie fourth and then moved into third when he got ahead of Alex MacDowall on the run into Clearways on lap four, despite bouncing across the grass in the process. Chilton saw off the challenge of Mat Jackson's older Ford to take third while MacDowall was left to settle for fifth.
Gordon Shedden was the star of the race as he came through the field from the back of the grid after his practice accident yesterday to take sixth place, with a number of forceful moves as he moved through the pack. That included contact on more than one occasion with the SEAT of Tom Boardman, with Boardman ultimately forced to pit two laps from the finish to end what had been a strong run up to that point.
Paul O'Neill was seventh ahead of debutant Tony Gilham, while Jeff Smith and Dave Newsham completed the points – the latter three all scoring in the BTCC for the first time.
Andy Neate was eleventh ahead of WSR's Nick Foster and the VW Golf of Tom Onslow-Cole who was the in final man to finish on the lead lap. John George and Chris James were a lap down with Andrew Jordan also lapped after being forced to pit mid-race with a puncture. Rob Collard was two laps down after being forced to pit as a result of damage caused in his green flag lap incident.
Neither of the NGTC Toyotas finished the race as both Frank Wrathall and Tony Hughes were forced back into the pits while David Pinkney's Rob Austin Racing Audi was fired up for the first time this morning and may complete some green flag laps later in the day although it isn't currently set to race.