British Touring Car Championship kicks off in style

There was no Formula One Grand Prix last weekend so our motorsport thirst was slaked by the season opening round of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at Brands Hatch in Kent – and what a weekend it was.

It was Andrew Jordan who followed his early testing form, storming to pole position at the head of a bumper grid. The Honda driver couldn’t convert his excellent qualifying into race success, however.

Qualifying in third place, and on the front of the second row of the grid, two-time BTCC Champion and current MG driver Jason Plato took the spoils in the first race after a brilliant battle with Jordan, which ended with the pole sitter making a lunge on Plato, sending both cars into the gravel.

Thankfully they both rejoined before the next car of Rob Austin, who picked up a strong third place in his Audi A4 after leading the early stages.

Sam Tordoff BTCC

Plato’s teammate and BTCC new boy Sam Tordoff finished in fourth, one place ahead of where he qualified.

Race two saw a similar result, with Plato standing atop the podium in first following a lights-to-flag victory and Jordan in second, although the winning margin dropped to less than one second.

Jordan was getting closer, but could he do go one step further and beat the MG man in the third race of the weekend?

Jordan’s teammate picked up a third for the Pirtek Racing team in race two, while three-time British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal finished strongly in fourth.

Honda BTCC

Race three was a chance for those who’d made mistakes in the first brace of races to atone for their errors, and it was Matt Neal who continued to improve at the greatest rate.

The tall Brit took the top spot in the final race at Brands, while the second Honda driver, Gordon Shedden, brought his car home in second by a slender margin of 0.083 seconds to complete a one-two for the team.

Neal inherited the lead after pole man Mat Jackson slid wide at the second corner, going on to command the race but having to fend off a challenge from Shedden towards the end of the race.

Race 3 also saw plenty of action, with a huge incident involving Dave Newsham, who spun his car in the dip between Paddock Hill and Druids.

Race 1’s third place driver Rob Austin tried to take avoiding action but clipped the stricken Toyota of Newsham, sending him onto the grass and into the crash barriers at high speed. Thankfully, both drivers weren’t hurt in the incident.

A special mention to Sam Tordoff after he scored a maiden podium in race 3 on his debut weekend in BTCC – not an easy feat in the cut and thrust of the British Touring Car Championship.

BTCC race start

Plato on his two wins:

“I am delighted with the first two wins. Last year was a sign of what might have come for us at MG – but we’ve changed the balance considerably now so it’s much easier to drive. It has been a good weekend.”

The MG driver now tops the championship standings on 54 points, with Jordan in second on 45 and Tordoff in third on 40.

Matt Neal on his race three victory:

“I’m really chuffed with the one-two after what’s been a tough weekend, but they always say to finish on a high. It was a nice way to finish the race in Honda formation – it reminded me of the last race of last season.”

Did you watch last weekend’s opening round of the BTCC on TV? Were you there at Brands Hatch? What do you think about the incidents, thrills and spill from all three races? Leave your comments below…