Advantage Plato after BTCC opener at Brands Hatch

Defending champion Jason Plato left Brands Hatch with an eight-point lead in the British Touring Car Championship after securing a second win and then fifth place in the final race of the day.

After setting a new record for the most BTCC wins in race one, the reigning champion continued that success in the second race while title rival Matt Neal clinched victory in the final sprint of the day.

Starting on pole after the first win, Plato, now carrying 45kg of success ballast, kept ahead of the pack for all 24 laps although he came under some strong pressure, particularly in the latter stages.

Plato got a good start but fellow front-rower, James Nash, lost second to Mat Jackson at Druids on the opening lap. Jackson, with Nash and Shedden close behind him, kept Plato honest and were all within a second of each other for most of the race.

Behind them it was Matt Neal's turn to play catch-up after his DNF in race one. Starting at the back of the grid, the Honda man was up to 14th by the end of the first lap. He continued to make progress, setting a lap record in the process before passing Rob Collard for 10th on lap seven.

Ahead of them, Jackson began to challenge Plato as the Chevrolet Cruze struggled with the extra weight. Plato kept his cool though and the only change in the top four came on lap 22 when Shedden passed Jackson at Clearways.

Andrew Jordan and Neal battled hard and caught and then passed sixth-placed Tom Chilton with four laps to go while Neal's hard work paid off and he finished seventh.

The advantage was handed to Neal in the third race as the grid was reversed for the top seven finishers and he stayed ahead while the action carried on behind.

Jordan, who was shadowing the leader, suffered his second puncture of the day to deny him a podium position while Plato, benefiting from others' misfortunes, moved into fourth from seventh. Spectators were treated to a great battle between Plato and Shedden in the second half of the race before the Chevrolet driver was forced to cede to the faster Honda Civic.

Victory for Shedden's team-mate was relief after a difficult day brought about by his accident in the opening race and Neal acknowledged the task ahead for the rest of the year.

"A great result for Honda Racing," he said. "We needed that. Jason is the man to beat this year and we've got to try and do that consistently."

The next round is at Donington on 16/17 April.
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