The MG KX Clubcard Fuel Save Team delivered it’s best team performance of 2014 in Rockingham this weekend (September, 6-7) at the eighth round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), taking a strong pole-position, four podiums and six points scoring finishes.
The Triple Eight Race Engineering-run squad had a fantastic start to the day with a double podium in race one. Pole-sitter Sam Tordoff was overcome by Colin Turkington’s BMW on the straight before the pair even reached turn one at the Corby circuit, but the Yorkshire ace held his own and nipped away at Turkington throughout the race, and almost passed the Ulsterman after a brief safety car period.
Plato came into the weekend third in the points behind Turkington and Gordon Shedden, which ensured he carried 27 kilos of success ballast for race one in the MG6 GT. Battling tyre wear and his ballast-free team-mate, the two-time BTCC champion started third on the grid and kept pace with Tordoff, but couldn’t mount a sustained challenge to pass him, taking third at the flag and his 190th career podium in the top British series.
Taking cues from the sunny weather, race two delivered added heat. Starting from second and third on the grid behind Turkington, Tordoff and Plato switched places into the momentous banking that forms turn one at the Corby speed-bowl. While BRDC director Plato harried after the BMW ahead, 25 year-old Tordoff had to display his defensive hand for the first time in the weekend. Multiple champion Alain Menu nipped past on the opening lap but was soon overcome, and a particularly aggressive effort by fellow Yorkshireman Adam Morgan, who seemed intent on driving through the #88 MG, saw Tordoff hold his own and prevent a major off.
As the race wore on, Plato came under increased pressure from JCT600-backed Tordoff, with the team’s initial concerns about tyre-wear on the notoriously abrasive Rockingham asphalt seemingly less of an issue that in years previous. Tordoff played a deft role as rear-gunner for his championship contending team-mate, keeping a pressing Menu and latterly, Andrew Jordan at bay to secure the second double-podium of the day for the Greatworth squad.
The final reverse grid race threw up its usual thrills and spills. Both MG drivers started on the soft tyre and with Menu and Rob Austin sharing the front-row, Jason lined up fourth and Sam fifth; crucially both Turkington and Shedden were behind the MG pair. At the Deene hairpin the field backed up with plenty of bumpers being bent; thankfully both Plato and Tordoff filed neatly through the order and escaped with little more than a graze in fifth and seventh, but Shedden soon retired.
The next set of corners saw Sam get bumped onto the dirt, but once again the BRDC SuperStar hung on and held eighth into the start of lap two. Ahead Plato battled with a rialled Mat Jackson who dug in deep and valiantly defended fifth. The Motorbase driver’s team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi, another double BTCC champion, elbowed past Tordoff on lap five to nick eighth, only to give it up some eight laps later when his tyres passed their prime.
Plato dropped to seventh on the same lap when Turkington’s team-mate, Rob Collard whistled past. The MG duo hung on for the remaining trio of laps to finish seventh and eighth and cap the best set of weekend finishes for the twenty-two times BTCC champions in the 2014 season.
Crucially, the results from the weekend now see Plato rise to second in the standings at the expense of Shedden, albeit now a sizeable 55 points behind title rival Turkington. After undeniably being the fastest front-wheel drive car yet again, MG rises above Honda in the manufacturer’s standings as the team head into the final two races of the 2014 season. The series now heads to Silverstone for a trio of races on the National circuit in three weeks (September, 27-28).