VX Racing celebrates podium sweep

VX Racing claimed a podium sweep in the first race of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship event at Thruxton circuit on Sunday. Fabrizio Giovanardi led his team mates home with Matt Neal in second place and Andrew Jordan behind in third position. It is nearly five years to the day since VX Racing celebrated a 1-2-3, with the Vauxhall Astra Coupé piloted by Luke Hines taking victory on 26 April 2004. VX Racing team mates James Thompson and Yvan Muller followed him home at the Brands Hatch round of the championship. 

For today’s opening race Giovanardi started from pole with Neal beside him on the front row. Despite carrying the maximum success ballast of 45 kgs, Neal stayed ahead of third placed driver Jason Plato off the line. Andrew Jordan started fourth, but snatched third within the first few corners. Determined not to relinquish the all-VX Racing podium Jordan defended hard, fending off Plato in the opening laps and pulling away from his rivals. A safety car period negated the lead which the VX Racing trio had over their rivals, but after the restart all three held station for a formation finish.

Giovanardi was happy to take his first win of the season saying “I wouldn’t say it was easy, but without ballast and being ahead of Matt, I knew it would be difficult for him to challenge me. It’s great to have scored my first win of the season, especially like this.” Neal said of his race, “The car was perfect and to be part of a Vauxhall 1-2-3 is a great start to the day. I pushed a little at the start and at the end, but I wanted to look after my tyres and with the extra weight I knew it would be hard to beat Fabrizio.” Jordan was pleased with his first VX Racing podium, saying, “I was disappointed not to have got my first podium at Brands Hatch, but it was mega to take it here and be alongside my team mates to celebrate it.”

The VX Racing trio of drivers started the second race in their finish positions, although with success ballast added to all three cars. At the green flag Giovanardi and Neal made strong starts, while Jordan was passed by the rear wheel drive BMW of Colin Turkington to lie fourth at the end of the opening lap. The safety car was deployed at the end of this lap while a stranded car was retrieved and after five laps the race was on again.

All three VX Racing drivers held position at the restart, but with Stephen Jelley behind him Jordan had a tough job to fend off the lighter BMW. The 19-year-old VX Racing driver only succumbed to Jelley when the BMW driver barged alongside him, edging him on to the grass. Although Jordan recovered he was left back in 18th place, a position he held until the chequered flag.  At the front of the pack Giovanardi and Neal paced the field, but as the race settled down Turkington, running with less ballast, finally passed Neal for second place and began a charge on Giovanardi. The Italian driver tried to defend and kept Turkington at bay in the closing stages, but with less than half a lap remaining the reigning champion had nothing more for the BMW and had to settle for second place when Turkington finally made it past him just ahead of the chequered flag. Neal followed his team mate home in third place.

The BTCC reverse grid format for the third race resulted in eighth place start for Neal, ninth for Giovanardi and 18th place for Jordan. Neal and Jordan made up ground at the start to lie seventh and fourteenth respectively at the end of the first lap while Giovanardi slipped back a place to tenth position. Neal carved his way up to fourth place by the closing stages, but Collard careered up behind him, knocking him wide and leaving the door open for two other cars to dive past and pushing the VX Racing driver back to seventh position at the chequered flag. Giovanardi was struggling with car setup and unable to make progress, only benefiting from others misfortunes, to finish eighth at the chequered flag. Jordan was unlucky to pick up a puncture after a safety car restart. He was able to limp back to the pits for a new tyre, but finished well down the order in 16th place.

Giovanardi said of his day, “Aside from getting the win, which is what I am here for, it has not been as enjoyable as I would have liked. We had a roll bar issue in the first race, which made it difficult to know the direction to take on set up changes. The car was definitely not right, but we need to review the data to find the solution.”

Neal was remaining positive after his Thruxton races, explaining, “The first two races were good and we made the best of it with the weight we were carrying, but it was frustrating in the third race. The car was great, but trying to get your weight through the traffic is hard. Then I got knocked wide and ended up back down the order. I wasn’t very happy, it was very frustrating. It was a seventh which should have been an easy fourth, if not third. I don’t like missing opportunities or giving away points when I shouldn’t have done, so I’ll be kicking myself for a few days on this one.”

Jordan also had mixed emotions, saying, “Luck wasn’t on our side today, although we had a podium at the start of the day and I’m pleased with that. Getting punted off in the second race and picking up a puncture in the third one just left me helpless to get any points, so it’s a bit disappointing as I know we have the car, the pace and the potential.”

VX Racing lead the Teams’ and Manufacturers/Constructors’ Championships and Matt Neal heads the Drivers’ title chase. The fight now moves on to Donington Park circuit for the third of the ten event Championship, with the next three races taking place on 17 May.

Ends.

Results

Race 1

1.       Fabrizio Giovanardi                                

2.       Matt Neal

3.       Andrew Jordan

Race 2

2.       Fabrizio Giovanardi

3.       Matt Neal

18.     Andrew Jordan

Race 3

7.       Matt Neal

8.       Fabrizio Giovanardi

16.     Andrew Jordan

Championship Standings

Drivers’ Championship 2009

1.       Matt Neal                                  64 points

2.       Colin Turkington             57 points

3.       Fabrizio Giovanardi                     47 points

10.     Andrew Jordan                           16 points

Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship

1. Vauxhall/VX Racing             138 points

2. Ford/Team Aon                                 87 points

3. Honda/Team Dynamics                      66 points

Teams’ Championship

1. VX Racing                                       109 points

2. Team RAC                                        87 points

3. Airwaves BMW                                  66 points


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