Giovanardi still leads

AS SHEDDEN, JACKSON & NEAL TAKE RACE WINS

Gordon Shedden, Mat Jackson and Matt Neal shared the victories in today’s action-packed three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship rounds at the Rockingham circuit in Northamptonshire. But it is reigning champion Fabrizio Giovanardi who remains at the top of the standings and with an extended points lead as the UK’s premier motor racing series heads to the Donington Park track in Leicestershire for its next three rounds on Sunday 4 May.

Scottish ace Shedden achieved his first win of the season in the day’s opening race in his Team Halfords Honda Civic and would later dedicate his achievement to fellow countryman and former leading BTCC driver David Leslie who died in an air crash two weeks ago. Indeed, on the grid for the first of today’s races, all BTCC drivers joined the crowds in a moving period of applause for Leslie and also Richard Lloyd – a past title-winner in the BTCC as a driver and team manager – who perished in the same air accident.

After his race one win, Shedden added two fourth place finishes to leave Rockingham a solid third in the championship – just six points behind Jackson who, having finished sixth in race one, won race two after overcoming Giovanardi only to then dramatically retire from race three as he pushed for a second victory. At the moment of his retirement he had been on course to take the lead of the championship…

In the end, a highly unpredictable race three was won by former double champion Neal who, as others tripped up in the soaking wet conditions, kept his head to take his first victory in Vauxhall’s Vectra VXR since joining the reigning champion outfit in the winter.

Giovanardi, meanwhile, took fifth to add to his earlier fifth in race one and runner-up spot in the second race. Although he hadn’t won a race it was sufficient to move him seven points clear of the disillusioned Jackson at the head of the table.

Vauxhall driver Giovanardi said: “This has not been my strongest day, but still I scored some good points and have increased my lead. I know from experience that you are not going to win every time and so it is important to take the most you can when you can’t win. I am pleased to still be leading but Jackson, Shedden, Neal… in fact everybody is really strong now. I can see already this is going to be a very difficult championship.”

Jackson, whose retirement in race three came after contact with rival Team RAC BMW driver Colin Turkington, said: “It was looking good in race three. I felt I had the pace to win that race, but there was slight contact between our cars and on a wet track I just slithered straight on into the gravel trap. From the highs of having taken on and beaten Fabrizio to win race two, this is a bit of a low as the lead of the championship was there for the taking… at least Fabrizio didn’t go and win it and he’s not managed to increase his lead too much.”

Elsewhere, Vauxhall and VX Racing have maintained their leads in the Manufacturers’ and Teams’ championships. Despite his non-score, Jackson and his BMW Dealer Team UK squad continue to head the Independent Drivers’ and Teams’ standings, although new threats in the shape of Adam Jones and Team Air Cool respectively have emerged after strong performances today that ended with a deserved third place finish in race three.

For full  results visit the BTCC’s official website btcc.net.

Result race 1 (provisional):

1. Gordon Shedden (GBR), Team Halfords/Honda Civic, 16 laps in 23m28.251s2. Darren Turner (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, +3.024s3. Matt Neal (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +3.575sFastest lap: Tom Onslow-Cole (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, 1m24.698s

Result race 2 (provisional):1. Mat Jackson (GBR), BMW Dealer Team UK/BMW 320si, 19 laps in 28m51.807s

2. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, +1.542s

3. Darren Turner (GBR), SEAT Sport UK/SEAT Leon TDI, +7.321s

Fastest lap: Giovanardi, 1m25.517s (81.66mph)

Result race 3 (provisional):

1. Matt Neal (GBR), VX Racing/Vauxhall Vectra VXR, 18 laps in 31m06.261s

2. Tom Chilton (GBR), Team Halfords/Honda Civic, +4.914s

3. Adam Jones (GBR), Team Air Cool/SEAT Leon, +5.785s

Fastest lap: Neal, 1m35.469s (73.15mph)

Drivers’ Championship (provisional):1. Fabrizio Giovanardi (ITA), 63 points2. Mat Jackson (GBR), 563. Gordon Shedden GBR), 504. Matt Neal (GBR), 475. Darren Turner (GBR), 386. Jason Plato (GBR), 35

Manufacturers Championship (provisional):1. Vauxhall, 1432. SEAT 111

Teams’ Championship (provisional):1. VX Racing, 1112. Team Halfords, 753. SEAT Sport UK, 72