The following article was produced by Kevin Mc Glone of Red Square Images, a part-time photographer and full-time car enthusiast whose passion for motorsport takes him all over Europe in pursuit of the perfect shot. He’s got a particular knack for capturing the vibe from endurance racing, so look out for him snapping away at next month’s Le Mans 24 Hours and the N24.

The following article was written following the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) season opener at Brand Hatch on 3rd April and it’s interesting to now reflect how far the title race has changed after just 3 rounds. Looking at the championship standings just six weeks later sees Matt Neal heading the drivers with 90 points, followed by Mat Jackson (78 pts), James Nash (75 pts), Andrew Jordan (69 pts), Gordon Shedden (65 pts) and finally Jason Plato bringing up the rear with 63 points.

It just goes to show how competitive the 2011 season is likely to be and that you can’t afford to miss a round. Here’s what Kevin had to say…

Brands Hatch: Plato takes the championship lead….but for how long?

Last weekend saw the opening three races of the new Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season take place at Brands Hatch. As if to offer its very own seal of approval fine weather decided to turn up to the party and keep the action hot and the rubber sticky. Arch rivals Jason Plato and Matt Neal were back in action fighting once more, this time for the first corner.

Plato started the 2011 season at Brands Hatch in fighting mood

Having pushed his way through Plato managed to eventually take the first win of the season and in so doing equal Andy Rouse’s record setting 60 wins in BTCC. So with 60 under his belt Plato didn’t hang around in taking win number 61 in the afternoon with his Silverline sponsored Chevrolet Cruze, proving the RML-fettled car a force to be reckoned with once again.

Plato won the first race despite being pushed hard early on by Vauxhall driver James Nash

However it was race 3 that saw the series new engine design take its very first win in the form of Matt Neal’s brand new 2011 Honda Civic’s new turbocharged engine. Neal led all the way from pole position in his Honda Racing Team Civic, setting the fastest lap time to boot.

Matt Neal sets fastest lap in race 2 on his way to the win

The victory went some way to making up for his spin into retirement earlier on in the opening round. Mat Jackson was second in the “Airwaves Racing’s Ford Focus and third Paul O’Neill, giving the team a first podium result with its new Chevrolet Cruze.

Fourth was Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden having found a way past Plato who finished in fifth.

Sheddon and Plato fighting for position during the race

Although Plato and the Silverline sponsored team left Brands Hatch leading the championship standings by nine points in the S2000 class car, it was the last race of the day that gave strong indications of where the race series was heading over the coming months.

Mat Jackson in last season’s Ford Focus shows the performance of his turbo charged engine over Paul O’Neill’s normally aspirated Cruze

The new NGTC specification engines supersedes the S2000 spec, allowing both 2 litre capacity and turbo charging resulting in an output in excess of 300 bhp. And with the added benefit of torque low down in the rev range the newer cars are likely to have the advantage in short tight and twisty circuits like the upcoming Donington Park.

Look, no Chevy…

Based on their performance last weekend it appears as though Honda have the quickest package overall. If Matt Neal wasn’t knocked out in the first race, it’s entirely possible that Honda could well have won all three races at Brands Hatch, and we could have a different championship leader.

Matt Neal’s turbocharged Honda Civic is one of the quickest cars on the grid, with a balanced and grippy chassis to boot

Chevrolet clearly has a very balanced car, despite its top speed disadvantage and its normally aspirated engine. Moving forwards in the coming season it is clear that Plato will need a strong grid position and good placing out of the first corner in order to keep his normally aspirated Chevrolet up with his forced induction opponents. Whether or not he manages to pull it off for another season only time will tell.

Words:Kevin McGlone
Picture credit: Red Square Images –