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North drivers fail to hit top gear at Silverstone.

Byline: By ZOE BURN

NORTH boys Jason Plato, Harry Vaulkhard and Alan Taylor came home feeling as dismal as the weather after a disappointing penultimate round of the British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone.

While Plato watched his championship hopes slide even further out of reach, Vaulkhard and Taylor endured another average weekend for the Robertshaw Racing outfit.

The event had started well for all three, with Plato stealing pole position with ease on Saturday afternoon.

Vaulkhard also scored his highest qualifying position of eighth in the Boldon-based outfit's Chevrolet Lacetti.

As race one began, Plato made a clean getaway on the wet track and, as the weather got worse, no-one else could get close and he took the flag quite comfortably.

However, things did not go so smoothly for Vaulkhard, who suffered a coming-together with the BMW of Stephen Jelley on lap four.

With steering damage, he managed to nurse the distinctive blue machine home and across the line 10th.

Taylor, meanwhile, stalled his Honda Integra Type-R at the start and, after getting moving, managed 13 laps before retiring with driveshaft failure.

Race two was to prove a nightmare for all three.

Although Plato had the advantage of pole again, it was to be a wasted chance as the car suffered set-up gremlins, losing him place after place as he limped home seventh.

Vaulkhard had a decent start and enjoyed a seven-lap battle with Mike Jordan's Integra, while Taylor again stalled on the line and was unable to start.

Several laps in, Vaulkhard had another collision and finished 12th.

Race three brought no better luck for Plato, as he fought his way through but could only manage to finish fifth.

He sits 44 points behind reigning champ Fabrizio Giovanardi in the title chase with just one round remaining.

Vaulkhard seemed to be retracing his old steps when he had more contact with Jelley, followed by a bump with Stephen Kane, and was lucky to cross the line 13th.

This time Taylor enjoyed an impressive race, starting from the back and coming through the field to end the day 16th.

Vaulkhard said: "Qualifying was the most satisfying part of this weekend, because we truly showed the pace of the car.

"We were very competitive in all of the races, but we suffered with the contact causing us damage and affecting the handling."

Taylor was delighted to score his first points of the season.

He said: "It was a good feeling to leave the track on a high after the start we had."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2008
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