Giovanardi Takes BTCC Championship by the Slimmest of Margins
A second place finish in the BTCC season finale has seen Fabrizio Giovanardi crowned this year’s Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Champion. The final race at Hampshire’s Thruxton circuit, which ended two laps early following an accident involving Mike Jordan in the Team Eurotech Honda, saw Giovanardi pull ahead of his nearest rival in the points stakes, Seat driver Jason Plato. Victories for Giovanardi in the day’s first two races saw Plato’s nine point lead in the championship evaporate, and by the end of proceedings on October 14 Giovanardi had 300 points under his belt, a winning margin of just three.
Italy’s Giovanardi, driving for Vauxhall, is the 32nd different driver to take out the championship since the BTCC was first formed in 1958, and the Vauxhall team had double reason to celebrate. This season, the first in which it has fielded the Vectra, saw it regain the BTCC’s Manufacturer’s crown from arch-rival Seat, winning by 637 points to 623. But it is the Spanish make’s Seat Sport UK squad that has won the Teams’ title. Elsewhere, Colin Turkington was crowned the Independent Drivers’ Champion while his Team RAC BMW squad has taken the Independent Teams’ honours.
Giovanardi ends the season with an unrivalled ten race wins. “This is incredible,” the champion commented. “It has been an amazing fight all year and Jason has always kept ahead until this, the last race. I have won touring car titles before but this is the toughest. Even on the last lap I knew Jason was close. It’s been like this all year. He has been a great rival and what he has done today with the injuries he suffered in the week was really brave – a really fighting spirit. I’m really pleased we had this battle. The result is also very special for Vauxhall and the Vectra. It’s just the perfect year.”
Jason Plato chose to compete in the final three races in spite of experiencing pain from burns he received to his hands, neck and face earlier in the week in an accident that took place while shooting television footage, a decision described as “superhuman” by Seat Sport UK motorsport manager Scott Dennis. Losing by the narrowest of margins after leading the pack for so long no doubt came as the hardest of blows to Plato, however this did not prevent him from paying tribute to his rival. “It’s been a great championship and Fabrizio is a great champion,” he said. “Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Everyone in the Seat team has tried their hardest in 2007 but it wasn’t to be, so we’ll just have to come back in 2008 and give it another go.
“It would be easy to pick out moments during the season which cost us in the end,” he added philosophically. “But we both knew what we had to do in the final race and it went Fabrizio’s way. But I’m pleased with my performance this year – I’ve finished every race – which nobody else has done – which shows great reliability in the Seat. Winning the title, though, just wasn’t to be I’m afraid. The BTCC is a very tough championship to win.”
The 2007 season is the third in which Dunlop has held title sponsorship, and all competing vehicles raced on tyres designed, built and developed at the company’s Fort Dunlop facility in Birmingham. The tyremaker believes that the combined vision and ambition shared between teams, promoters, circuit owners and sponsors has been instrumental in the growth of the BTCC during the last two years. “Dunlop is proud to be part of the BTCC success story and 2007 looks to continue that growth and provide yet more thrilling action for spectators and millions of TV viewers,” said corporate communications manager James Bailey. “From a business perspective, our association with the BTCC has played a key part in communicating the technology and performance of our tyres…. We are proud of our place in British motor sport and the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship is the jewel in our crown.”