25 July 2004
Plato leads SEAT one-two at Croft.
For the third time this season, Jason Plato took advantage of the reverse grid rules to claim victory in the second BTCC race of the day at Croft.
The former champion led home Rob Huff to give the SEAT team a one-two finish with Dan Eaves taking third for Computeach Racing in the Honda.
As in race one, there was a plenty of action off the line, with Luke Hines failing to get off away cleanly because of clutch trouble. As cars switched left and right to avoid the Vauxhall, which was starting from third on the grid, Plato got the jump on pole sitter Stefan Hodgetts to lead into Clervaux. Behind him the Sureterm Astra was struggling with mechanical problems and Hodgetts found himself being swamped by the field. Stuck on the outside, Hodgetts was in the wrong place at the wrong time as the concertina effect of drivers trying to pass each other saw him pushed off into the gravel trap.
“On the grid the alarms came on saying the engine was getting too hot,” he said. “I couldn't hold the revs like I wanted to and even though I got away well I soon got bogged down. I got swamped by the field and then in the first corner I got a big hit in the right rear and that was it.
“It's disappointing because we thought we could get a top five finish but that's touring cars, these things happen.”
Plato found himself leading from Eaves, with Huff in the second SEAT sitting in third. Heading into the second lap, Eaves had a run on Plato heading into Clervaux, but with the yellow flags out for Hodgetts' Astra, the Honda was unable to make a move for the lead. Out of the chicane, Huff then had a run on Eaves and drove round the outside to take second place at Tower. James Thompson had made the jump to fourth at the start and from there, the top four were settled to the flag.
However for the four behind them it was a totally different race. Off the start, Yvan Muller had jumped to fifth ahead of Matt Neal and the MG duo of Colin Turkington and Anthony Reid. Neal passed the Vauxhall on lap 3 only for Muller to take the position back a lap later at Clervaux. With Neal pushed wide, Turkington also found a way through at Hawthorne to take sixth.
Into lap six and Neal attacked the MG on the run up to Tower. Although he slid through, Turkington was able to cut back inside the Honda to retake the position before the duo reached the high Jim Clark Essses. Turkington then set about Muller, with the four cars running nose to tail on the track. By lap eleven, Muller was under severe pressure, with the Vauxhall almost sideways through Sunny In and at the chicane on the end of that lap, Neal dived up the inside of Turkington to take sixth.
On the penultimate lap, Muller had to concede fifth, as Neal took the place, with the MG's battling behind. Reid had a look at Turkington into Tower but was unable to make a move. On the next, and final lap, the race one winner was on the attack again, sliding up the inside of his teammate at the same corner, the two black cars running side by side before Reid finally had to relent as they turned into the Esses. By the flag, Neal had taken fifth, ahead of Muller, Turkington and Reid, with Tom Chilton in the Honda and Shaun Watson-Smith in the Proton completing the top ten.
Up front though, the race belonged to Plato, who claimed the glory for SEAT at his home track, finishing just over a second ahead of his young teammate.
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