When James Kaye suffered suspension failure and went straight on into the barriers at Druids, he can have had no idea of the fun that was ahead during the third BTCC race at Brands Hatch.

With the Synchro Motorsports Honda Civic stuck on the outside of the corner, the decision was made, not for the first time over the weekend, to send out the safety car.

For four laps, Jason Plato led the field round behind the red Audi estate, his lead over a charging Matt Neal having been wiped out. Behind him, arch enemy Yvan Muller was third ahead of SEAT teammate Rob Huff and Michael Bentwood - hoping to put the ghosts of a poor show in the first Brands Hatch meeting of the year to rest.

As Plato became visibly agitated at the slow speed of the safety car, marshals pulled Kaye's stricken car out of the way leaving just one single 50 second lap to decide the winner of round 24 of the series.

And what a lap it was!

As the safety car peeled into the pit lane, Plato bunched the field up before powering the SEAT over the line closely followed by Matt Neal as the train of cars headed into Paddock Hill bend - the place where the action really started.

"The safety car pulled in with one lap to go and then it all kicked off," Plato told Crash.net afterwards. "If I'm in the lead then I dictate the pace of the corner. What you can't do if you are second and faster is just drive through someone. You've got to round and Matt chose not to go round. He just drove into me and I nearly went off the track."

With Ben Edwards and Tim Harvey almost falling of their chairs with excitement in the commentary box, millions of viewers on ITV watched as Plato fought to keep his car pointing the right way, while others dived left and right to avoid Neal, whose car momentarily jumped out of gear on contact with the SEAT.

Neal was in no doubt as to who had caused the problem, and unsurprisingly he didn't agree with Plato's view.

"Jason is being a bit too clever," he said. "He had us under the safety car in race two, hitting the brakes or slowing down on the restarts. I knew we had the legs on him at the end of race three and I thought went the safety car came out 'I'll have a go at him.'

"That last lap was carnage from start to finish. We went into paddock and got a run on him and all of a sudden he just hit the brakes, or had a huge lift to slow the car. You're hard on the gas into there and I had nowhere to go so I ran into him. I thought we were both going off in a big way."

But Plato wasn't finished yet. Having somehow kept his car pointing the right way he had rival Muller suddenly alongside heading to Druids, where a bemused Kaye was watching on the sidelines.

Again the forces that seem to attract the former teammates to each other were evident as they made contact while fighting for the lead.

"Muller had a go into Druids," Plato said. "He came in impossibly late and just barged me out of the way and I nearly went off. Then we tangled on the way out of the corner and I got back past him."

So a yellow car powered out of Druids in the lead - but not with Plato at the wheel. In the melee in front of him, Rob Huff had picked his way through (remarkably without touching anybody) to take the lead.

"It was crazy, absolutely crazy!" a bemused Huff said. "Matt hit Jason at Paddock, they went sideways and me and Yvan both got round the outside of Matt. Then Yvan went up the inside of Jason into Druids, they bashed into each other, I snuck up the inside and came out of Druids three corners away from my first BTCC win! It seemed to last forever, it was fantastic!"

No-one is quite sure how he managed it but Plato kept his car pointing the right way to come out of the final corner second to give SEAT a one-two finish.

"We've lost a race through aggressive driving but its racing," he said. "If anyone else had to win, I'd want it to be Rob, it's a great result for him.

"We've put on a show for the fans and that's what touring cars is all about. It can be feisty at times - some you win, some you don't."

While Plato could still take his place on the podium, Neal had to settle for fourth - Michael 'I was in the right place at the right time' Bentwood having jumped into third.

With a car that was more than quick enough to win, Neal wasn't impressed with the way Plato had performed on the final lap.

"We all know how to play tricks," Neal said. "I knew this with Reidy back at Silverstone [scene of a much discussed incident earlier in the season]. I said 'yeah, that's something I've done and had done to me' but there is a time and a place and there's being too clever.

"If he starts doing it to people who know the game then he will get it back big style. There's a line to draw."

So leaving Brands Hatch behind its off to Snetterton - Plato v Muller, Plato v Neal, Muller v Bentwood, Muller v Thompson, Reid v anybody - it promises to be a quiet weekend...

 

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