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After an abysmal qualifying session, which left him down in 11th place, Matt Neal salvaged a decent haul of points to maintain his championship lead as the British Touring Car Championship leaves Snetterton.

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For the MG squad, which had been dominant in testing, qualifying and the opening race, the day ended with principal driver Jason Plato rolling at the start of race three after an engine problem knocked him out of the lead of the middle event.

The opening race provided a maiden victory for Plato’s MG colleague Sam Tordoff.

“This track has always been kind to me and I knew if I got it off the line I had the pace to win” said race one pole man Tordoff.

“The first one is always special. I knew that if I got away well I’d have a great chance and thankfully I did. A one-two is great for the team and now I have this maiden win – well I have ticked that box – so I feel like I can really go out and enjoy the next two races this afternoon.”

The young Leeds racer made an excellent start to establish a lead which he steadily extended to become the sixth winner of the season.

Behind, Plato was fending off Gordon Shedden’s Honda to ensure a MG one-two with the BMW of Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan’s Honda following.

Championship leader Neal had a poor qualifying, and needing to limit the damage to his points lead, he worked his way up to eighth place before Mat Jackson sneaked by late race.

The MGs led away race two with Plato ahead of Tordoff, who was quickly demoted by Turkington.

A caution period interrupted the race but once under way Jordan, on soft tyres, stole by Shedden for third as Turkington was leading after Plato had slowed with no power and retired to the pits.

Jordan muscled by Tordoff, who then faded with a lack of brakes, and started to attack the leading BMW, finally forcing a way past at Williams for his third win of the season.

Turkington was quickly elbowed down the order which left Aron Smith in second place with series leader Neal, who had steadily been making up places, breathing down his exhaust pipe before finding a way by at Palmers on the final lap.

“It was a frenetic race,” said the winner afterwards.

“It was a good win, but typical of Matt Neal to come through to finish second, so I only got a few points back on him. The soft tyre ran really well during the recent test days so we thought we’d take the gamble to run them in the second race and it worked perfectly.”

Turkington lost the lead of the third race when he was punted from behind by Shedden who went on to claim victory from the Ford Focus of Mat Jackson.

Smith clung onto his second podium of the meeting while Morgan kept the rampant Tordoff behind as the recovering Turkington relived Jordan of sixth in the final laps. Meanwhile Neal recovered from a first lap incident, which left him last, to finish eighth.

Neal had started the day with a 19 point advantage over Honda colleague Jordan and ended it nine ahead. Shedden is now third in the standings, just 22 points off the lead. Turkington and Plato complete the top five.

• RESULTS / STANDINGS

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Race One: 1 Sam Tordoff (MG6); 2 Jason Plato (MG6); 3 Gordon Shedden (Honda Civic); 4 Colin Turkington (BMW 125iM); 5 Andrew Jordan (Honda Civic); 6 Aron Smith (Ford Focus); 7 Adam Morgan (Toyota Avensis); 8 Mat Jackson (Ford Focus); 9 Matt Neal (Honda Civic); Rob Collard (BMW 125iM).

Race Two: 1 Andrew Jordan; 2 Matt Neal; 3 Aron Smith; 4 Mat Jackson; 5 Adam Morgan; 6 Colin Turkington; 7 Gordon Shedden; 8 Dave Newsham (Toyota Avensis); 9 Tom Onslow-Cole (VW Passat CC); 10 Frank Wrathall (Toyota Avensis).

Race Three: 1 Gordon Shedden; 2 Mat Jackson; 3 Aron Smith; 4 Adam Morgan; 5 San Tordoff; 6 Colin Turkington; 7 Andrew Jordan; 8 Matt Neal; 9 Rob Collard; 10 Nick Foster (BMW 125iM).

Championship standings: Matt Neal 256, Andrew Jordan 247, Gordon Shedden 234, Colin Turkington 219, Jason Plato 206, Sam Tordoff 182, Adam Morgan 162, Aron Smith 119, Jeff Smith 116, Tom Onslow-Cole 108.

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