Photo Gallery: Lively British Touring Cars weekend at Snetterton is shared by title rivals
A topsy turvy British Touring Car Championship weekend brought out the best in Snetterton's new format – and a real shake-up at the sharp end of the title hunt.
Three men took their place at the top of the drivers' standings during yesterday's trio of races, which were shared between Jason Plato – his ninth win around the Norfolk track – Gordon Shedden and Mat Jackson.
Morning championship leader Matt Neal did at least salvage an impressive fourth after two pointless finishes, but it was not enough to bring the top four closer together as the series heads into Knockhill next month.
With a weekend crowd in excess of 20,000 was treated to some real bump and grind Touring Car action – although all three race winners had things relatively comfortable.
Race one suffered an early delay after Lea Wood's Honda Integra lost a wheel on the parade lap – not good news for a team sponsored by Wheel Heaven.
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Once things did get going it only took a corner for arch rivals Plato and Neal to come together, as the championship leader went round the outside and was treated to a nudge from pole-sitter Plato.
It sent Neal backwards down the straight with 25 cars heading for his turbo-powered Honda Civic – but he avoided further damage before trailing home 18th.
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The prang left a clear path for Plato to see through the 12 laps with ease ahead of Silverline Chevrolet team-mate Alex MacDowall and Neal's Honda Racing colleague Shedden.
Frank Wrathall took a fairytale fourth as leading independent, while Jackson's turbo helped him to sixth after a race long battle fending off Paul O'Neill.
Added success ballast for race two did not hamper the Chevrolet's off the start – so
Shedden took matters into his own hands, prodding into Plato around Montreal to barge into a lead he held to the flag with James Nash – usually luckless around Snetterton – following in second.
There was plenty of action behind though. Neal reached the dizzy heights of fifth before an excursion forced him into the pits and a second pointless outing.
That allowed Shedden and Jackson, with a second sixth, to overtake him in the championship standings.
Plato's pressure on Wrathall eventually told with a bold move inside Coram to take third with three to go, before mechanical failure ended the debutant's weekend soon after.
The finale – round 18 of the championship – brought a reverse grid pole for veteran Dave Newsham, but front-row colleague Jackson is the final race specialist for 2011.
The Airwaves Focus man took the lead inside the second lap before disappearing from sight for the win that made him the third and final championship leader on the day.
O'Neill made the most of a Newsham mistake to take second and complete his best weekend of the season, while Shedden glanced a bollard to knock off his flapping front wing – an impressive piece of improvisation that saved the Scot both a pit stop and a seventh-placed finish.
Plato made it three podium visits from three races with an exquisite pass of Newsham into Bombhole on the penultimate lap.
Anand Neal, fighting to save his weekend, finally got things right with a brilliant charge – making up 13 places to take fourth, on a weekend that proved just how close the British Touring Car Championship will be in the second half of the season.