Two-horse race after Snetterton drama

After three fabulous British Touring Car Championship races at Snetterton yesterday, the championship looks to have become a straight fight between Jason Plato and Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi.

After three fabulous British Touring Car Championship races at Snetterton yesterday, the championship looks to have become a straight fight between Jason Plato and Italian Fabrizio Giovanardi.

Seat Leon racer Plato came to the Norfolk venue with a healthy 25-point lead, but finished behind Giovanardi in all three races, which reduced his advantage to 14 with nine races to go.

"I'm happy to have beaten Jason in all three races, that was my target for the weekend," said Giovanardi, who predicted the championship was still wide open.

The locally-based RAC-supported BMW team looked to be celebrating an opening race victory until Colin Turkington failed a post race weight check. But young Tom Onslow-Cole restored RAC pride with a masterly drive in race three to take his maiden victory to a huge reception.

A clash between Plato and Matt Neale at the opening corner of the first race was what Giovanardi needed, but the Vauxhall Vectra racer was unable to capitalize on his rival's problems as he had a clutch problem himself.

Out front the RAC BMW's of Onslow-Cole and Turkington led every lap with Turkington squeezing by his team mate at Sear Corner on the sixth lap, to no avail as he was later excluded for the want of the weight of a bag of sugar.

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This left Gordon Shedden to inherit the victory, his third of the season, in his Halford's Honda with Onslow-Cole behind. Tom Chilton's Vauxhall Vectra and the BMW of Mat Jackson finished ahead of Giovanardi, who only gained three points more than Plato, who recovered to eighth place after a forceful drive, having fallen to 17th in his early collision.

Sadly for Neale, he was unable to score any points and his championship hopes looked to have faded away.

With his car repaired, Giovanardi roared to a convincing victory in the second race to close down Plato's lead by a further six points.

A massive start-line accident saw Fiona Leggate smash into the pit lane barrier after contact with a spinning Chris Stockton. This produced a safety car period and saw another midfield melee when Richard Marsh thumped Matthew Allison's Money Centre supported Seat Toledo.

When the race resumed, Giovanardi made short work of despatching Jackson and Shedden to secure his sixth victory of the year.

In a brilliant drive, from 18th on the grid, Neale claimed second placed in his Halfords Honda on the final lap from Darren Turner, with Plato right in his wheel tracks.

A demon start from pole position put Onslow-Cole into the lead of race three, which he held to the flag for a fabulous first victory.

The race for second came alive on the 15th lap when Jackson tried to squeeze by Plato at the Esses. Giovanardi joined in at the Bomb Hole, but as all three ran wide Neale nipped by to steal second place with the Vauxhall racer recovering first to complete the podium places.

Local racer Allison had a disappointing weekend with only one top ten finish in front of his home supporters.

"Snetterton is a power circuit and we have struggled a bit to be honest," he said. "It's disappointing but we will come back fighting in the final three rounds."

In the opening race the Norwich driver was heading for a strong top ten placing until he was spun round at Russell by the recovering Plato.

"It was unnecessary as I wouldn't have held him up," added Allison, who recovered to finish 11th, his starting position. Allison (pictured below) was running just outside the top ten in race two when the safety car was deployed and then got assaulted in the rear by a wayward Marsh.

The collision bent the exhaust pipe which allowed fumes inside the car and made the local driver queasy during the final laps but he held on to finish tenth. In the third race Allison was in 11th place when a drive shaft let go with three laps remaining.

"Frustrating" quoted Allison. "But we will bounce back."