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News 2007: Rounds 1, 2 and 3 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Brands Hatch

Motorbase Performance made a points-scoring start to the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch, with both drivers gaining two top ten finishes in Sunday's races.

Gareth HowellIt was a fiercely contested opener for the new season, with 14 drivers covered by less than a second in Saturday afternoon's qualifying session. Norwich based Matt Allison secured 11th spot on the grid, while Gareth Howell, from Beckenham, was 13th.

Raceday brought three tough touring car races, but ended with both Motorbase Performance drivers scoring valuable championship points and bringing their SEAT Toledo Cupras home safely on each occasion – no mean feat on the 1.2 mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit.

Gareth scored a pair of ninth place finishes and could have had even more had he not fallen foul of an over-ambitious rival in the second race of the day.

Matt AllisonGareth said, "It's been a frustrating weekend. The car felt really good in the second race, but I got nerfed off into the gravel at Clearways. It could have been a very different story if that hadn't happened. We could certainly have finished in the top eight, maybe even top six.

"Obviously that would have put us right up there for the third race. I lapped quicker than (racewinner) Matt Neal in the third race, but you have to be up there in the first place.

"We know that this car isn't best suited to short circuits, so we're still optimistic. We've come away with two clean cars, and we'll go on to Rockingham and see what we can do there!"

Matt's strongest race of the weekend was round two, both in terms of pace and position. Forced to start from the back after a minor problem ahead of the race, he proceeded to climb up through the pack, passing 14 cars to end the race in ninth position.

Matt said, "It's been a pretty good weekend for me really. I was a bit rusty with my starts and obviously you quickly learn just how physical touring cars can be. I really just wanted to bring the car home, and we've done that and scored some points to go with it."

The car wouldn't start in the pitlane for race two, which meant I started from the back of the grid, but that actually ended up being my best race. To come through from 23rd to ninth was fantastic. The car was really strong and it ran really well throughout the race.

"It's still early days for the team, the car and for me, but we've had three races and three finishes, so it's not been a bad debut. There's still room for improvement though.

Autographs"What's really good is that the sponsors have had a great time. The Money Centre had never been to a touring car race before and they had an excellent day. The whole package has been mega impressive."

Motorbase Performance Team Principal David Bartrum said, "It's been good. Everybody has worked really hard, but it's been worth it. If you'd told me a few weeks ago that we'd be out at Brands Hatch against 24 other touring cars with two of our own for the first time and we'd get top ten finishes in all three races, I wouldn't have believed you.

"Matt's had a really good first weekend. He had a great run in the second race to come all the way through to ninth. Gareth was going well in race two as well, but he got taken out through absolutely no fault of his own.

"There's plenty we can take from the weekend and we'll go to Rockingham and see if we can move forward."

Rounds four, five and six of the 2007 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship take place at Rockingham in Northamptonshire on 21/22 April.

Race results (provisional)

Round 1
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
2. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)
3. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
4. Mike Jordan (Honda Integra)
5. Tom Onslow-Cole (BMW 320si)
9. Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
12. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 2
1. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
2. Colin Turkington (BMW 320si)
3. Tom Chilton (Vauxhall Vectra)
4. Darren Turner (SEAT Leon)
5. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
9. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
11. Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

Round 3
1. Matt Neal (Honda Civic)
2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall Vectra)
3. Mat Jackson (BMW 320i)
4. Jason Plato (SEAT Leon)
5. Adam Jones (SEAT Toledo)
9. Gareth Howell (SEAT Toledo Cupra)
10. Matt Allison (SEAT Toledo Cupra)

All images courtesy of Enver Meyer