2 SEPTEMBER 21 2011 motorsport-news.co.uk
IN THIS ISSUE
THE VOICE OF BRITISH MOTORSPORT ISSUE JA2788
“It’s not over until the last race”
P4 Sebastian Vettel is taking no risks in Singapore
SHEDDEN TO MAKE BRITISH GT APPEARANCE
Honda’s BTCC star will get to sample Ferrari power
RALLY GB SET TO REMAIN ENTIRELY IN WALES
Rally head says it’s too late to change stage route
HONDA STARS DRAW LEVEL AS BTCC RIVALS CLASH
Shedden and Neal weather storm to take points lead
Historic race and rally news
Track Test:Nissan GT-R
SUBSCRIBETOMOTORSPORTNEWS 22 Insight:Escort vs Fiesta 23 BTCC report:Rockingham 24 Report:BTCC supports 26 Goodwood Revival report 27 Racing reports 28 Rally reports 30 Rallyday report 31 Sporting Scene round-up 32 Karting round-up 34 Letters/Comment/What’s On 36 Wanted:WWE-style referee for a showdown between Jason‘The Gaffer’ Plato and Matt‘The Hurricane’Neal
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Old rivals clash at Rockingham as tempers
ByMatt James Touring car star Matt Neal has promised to help his Honda team win this year’s British title at any cost after a controversial pit lane bust-up with main rival Jason Plato at Rockingham last weekend.
The old foes clashed on-track during the qualifying session on Saturday and then had to be pulled apart in a face-to-face skirmish after the session had finished.
Both drivers accused their rivals of ruining timed laps and the anger spilled over when they stepped from their cars. Neal went to punch Plato after the Chevrolet manhadmade gestures towards his opponent, but was held back. The two drivers were later fined for the outburst. After the clash on Saturday, Neal said: “Jason better look out from now on because I will be coming for him like a hurricane.
“I don’t care if I lose my licence – he can’t treat people like that. I have won this championship twice already andmy team-mate Gordon Shedden has a good chance. I don’t mind if Gordon wins it instead of me. Plato thinks he can get away with these things, but he can’t. I don’t want to fall out with anyone, but it is getting impossible.”
Around the block Neal and Plato, who have a long history of on-track spats, are both gunning for this year’s British Touring Car Championship title. Neal is the joint leader of the title race while Plato is desperate to make up ground after three costly accidents earlier in the season. He remains in third place, but needs to haul in the Hondas of Neal and Gordon Shedden.
Plato had set pole position for the opening round at Rockingham when the session was halted after a back marker crashed. The cars were then released for a final three-minute dash for times, and that is when the on-track incident occurred.
Furious Honda ace confronts Plato as the pair are held apart
Plato said that the Hondas had blocked him as he tried to get ahead on the out lap and made contact with Neal as he attempted to reach the front of the queue of cars. Neal said that Plato had ruined his subsequent lap by backing off the throttle in the middle of a hairpin during the drivers’ penultimate shot at grabbing the fastest time. Plato retained pole position when the chequered flag flew while Neal ended the session fourth fastest.
The drivers squared up to each other as soon as they had returned to the pit lane.
Seconds out Neal walked over to Plato after the Cruze driver hadmade a gesture towards him and a scuffle ensued.
“I was fed up because he had deliberately spoiled my lap,” said Neal afterwards. “Plato got out of his car and was taking the congratulations with all his team. Then he sawme andmade a rude gesture with his finger. It lit the blue touch paper and I went over to him and asked what he was doing. He told me to f**k off.” After a heated discussion, Neal feigned to punch Plato but was held
HOWTHE INCIDENT UNFOLDED 1537hrs: The qualifying session is restarted for a final three minutes after a red flag. Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal, whose Hondas are further down the pit lane, take to the track ahead of Jason Plato outside of him at Chapman. On the exit of the corner, Plato tries to pass a slow Shedden too but the Chevrolet and Neal, who is still alongside, make contact at the first left-handed part of Pif Paf
1538hrs:Plato battles to get ahead of the Hondas to give himself some clear track space, while Shedden and Neal are determined to maintain station. Plato gets a run on Neal and tries to drive around the
1539hrs: Plato is still ahead of Neal as he starts a final qualifying lap as the chequered flag falls. As they get to the first hairpin, Plato locks up. As he exits the corner Neal cannons into the back of the Cruze
1542hrs: Plato and Neal arrive back in the pit lane and park outside their respective garages. As Plato steps from his car, there is a gesture made between the two drivers. Neal storms over to Plato and shouts at his rival and feigns to throw a punch. Neal is held back by Plato’s father Tim Plato. As Neal walks away, more gestures are made
1545hrs: The incident is referred to the stewards of the meeting
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motorsport-news.co.uk SEPTEMBER 21 2011 3
flare during pit lane altercation
Photos: ITV Sport and Jakob Ebrey
I AM OUT TO GET PLATO
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A fast starting Matt Neal tried to use his momentum to go around the outside of Jason Plato at Riches corner during the first race, but the pair make contact at the exit and Neal slews sideways before spinning out
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the of round final the In
In the final round of the championship, Neal, already contracted to move to Vauxhall in 2008, helps future team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi to the title by holding up Plato’s Seat at Thruxton
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Furious Honda ace feigns punch
Plato and Neal clashed on track before pit lane fracas back by Honda Racing team manager Barry Plowman and Plato’s father Tim Plato.
Plato said that Neal’s outburst continued even after the pair had been separated. “He grabbed me and started ranting a raving at me but I couldn’t hear what he was saying because I still hadmyhelmet on and earplugs in,” said the reigning champion. “The man [Neal] was enraged, he had hold of the front of myrace suit and hewent to land a punch onme.
“I recoiled and he didn’t connect. Parents got involved, team
Plato: gestur e t ow ar ds Neal members got involved, and then Matt proceeded to walk back to his garage area offering violent threats for a further 20 metres as he went back.”
Drivers in the dock Both drivers got a £1000 fine, three penalty points on their licences and a six place suspended grid penalty until the end of the season as a result of the clash.
The stewards met on Saturday night to look at the off-track clash and determined that both were equally responsible so decided to apply the same sanction to both.
In a statement, the stewards said: “A meeting was convened to consider an incident involving Matt Neal and Jason Plato.
“The stewards heard evidence from Matt Neal and Jason Plato and saw television evidence from ITV4. It was decided that [the drivers] will be fined £1000 and have three [race licence] points. The stewards also request that the BTCC administrator imposes a six place grid penalty, suspended for the rest of the 2011 season.”
Plato said that he thought the penalty was out of proportion to his part in the incident and he said he had been harshly treated. “I didn’t charge over to him and physically assault the bloke,” said Plato. “He was the one who did it to me. I had every right to be the aggressor because of what had gone on. I am upset because, yet again, I have got points and a fine. What did I do apart from make a gesture, for which I apologise? We live in the 21st century – at what point is making a hand gesture equal to physical assault in front of TV cameras and everything? I think it is appalling.”
Neal and Plato: Not best fr iends
Olive branch After the third race of the weekend at Rockingham, Neal approached Plato to comment on the clean races that the pair had gone through on Sunday. Neal overtook Plato in the second race of the day to secure a podium finish, and they had also been together on track in the final race of the day before Plato got in front. Neal said afterwards: “I just wanted to say something about the way he had behaved on track on Sunday when we were battling, and he thanked me for the gesture.
“I wouldn’t say that Plato and me are ever going to be friends, but I think it was something that I needed to do.
“This championship is tough at the best of times and I just want to get onwith some good, honest racing.” ■
Neal is on the inside of Plato’s Seat Leon as the pack reaches the apex of Riches corner during the opening race of the weekend. The pair touch but both continue. Plato later says that Neal “lacks class”
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The Seat of Plato looked to be well on course for a win in the second race at Croft in June but Neal had other ideas. Plato accused him of “council house” racing as the Honda man dived inside at the hairpin to win
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More Snetterton action as Neal leads but Plato launches a fightback on the last lap. The pair run side-by-side into the Bombhole and Neal is spat on to the grass after a clash. The pair clash again at Russell and Neal rotates while Plato wins
JAMES NASH AVOIDS THE CHAOS TO CLAIM MAIDEN BTCC WIN, PAGE 24