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Brands Hatch GP set for BTCC thriller

Monday, September 19 2011

The Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit could make or break title hopes as the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship heads to the venue delicately poised on 1/2 October.

Honda Racing's Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal are tied at the top of the drivers' standings with Jason Plato ready to pounce, after a dramatic meeting both on and off the track at Rockingham last weekend.

If the pressure wasn't already high enough for the drivers at the sharp end of the championship race, then the lid well and truly came off following a heated exchange between Neal and Plato during Saturday's qualifying session. Contact between the pair in qualifying led to a confrontation in the pit lane, which resulted in the pair being handed three penalty points on their licences, a £1,000 fine and suspended six place grid penalty.

The pair will be set to battle it out once again on the track at Brands Hatch as they bid to enhance their 2011 title hopes at the penultimate round of the season.        

Sunday's action began with a commanding victory for Chevrolet's Plato as he recorded his sixth win of the season behind the wheel of his normally aspirated Cruze from pole position. Fans favourite Paul O'Neill grabbed another podium, guiding his Techspeed Chevrolet to second ahead of the NGTC Toyota Avensis of Frank Wrathall. Neal finished fourth, with Shedden in sixth, but former championship leader Mat Jackson, in the Kent based Airwaves Racing team, suffered another retirement.

Shedden struck back with victory in race two finishing ahead of Wrathall, who scored the best ever result for a NGTC car in second, while title contender Neal claimed the final spot on the podium. The final race of the weekend saw the BTCC crown a new race winner, the second in as many meetings, with Triple Eight Engineering's James Nash visitng the top step of the podium. The Newport Pagnell man held off Rob Austin's Audi A4 and Rob Collard's WSR BMW to take the win.

The championship title battle couldn't be closer heading into what will be a pivotal round of the season at Brands Hatch, with Neal and Shedden tied on 204 points at the top. With Plato just behind on 180 points, there is everything to play for and thrills and spills will be guaranteed at the famous 2.3 mile Grand Prix circuit. 

Double champion and title contender Neal said: "Yet again we've seen more teams, cars and drivers becoming increasingly competitive in shaking up the order. Nor can we discount Jason (Plato) - he's taken a fair chunk out of us today. He's still a little way back but we've seen him make up more than that sort of ground in the final two rounds before."

While fellow title rival Plato added: "Although I think we can be strong again at Brands Hatch I still don't see how we'll be able to match the turbocharged cars at Silverstone. We'll of course give it everything but it's really for the Honda drivers to lose."

Local team Airwaves Racing will still be in hunt with Jackson looking to reignite his season and regain the lead in the Independents' Trophy. 

Tickets for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit (1-2 October) are available in advance from £25, with free entry for children 12 and under. For more information, call 0843 453 9000 or click here.