Chilton wins BTCC thriller

Tom Chilton has won the first of today’s three Dunlop’s MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Knockhill circuit in Fife but Mat Jackson has lost the series lead after retiring with just a lap to go.

Chilton led all the way from pole position for his first win of the season – also the first for Team Aon’s new-for-2011 Global Ford Focus. He also set the fastest lap to ensure a maximum score.

Second and third were Honda Racing duo Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden in their Civics. Shedden had muscled his way through to third from fifth on the grid but then spent the rest of the race unsuccessfully trying to pass his team-mate. Their on-going squabble enabled the following group of cars headed by Frank Wrathall’s NGTC-spec Dynojet Toyota Avensis to close in, which led to several moments of high drama as drivers overlapped one another while jostling for position around the spectacular Knockhill track…

Chilton commented: "The car was superb from the start and remained consistent throughout, although I had one big scare when I got crossed up on some mud that someone had dragged back on to the track at Leslie's – I thought for a second it had gone but it came back. What a great job the team has done with this car."

Neal, driving with a broken bone in his right hand, added: "I didn't really have an answer for Tom's pace so put everything into looking after the tyres which wasn't easy with Gordon breathing down my neck. There were a few times I thought he might go for it but it was a very clean, enjoyable race."

And said home hero Shedden: "I knew I had to go for it from the start to get up with Chilton and Matt and it paid off. Had I got past Matt I still don't know if I could have caught Chilton – he seemed to have more speed in reserve."

Wrathall took fourth from the rapidly closing Robert Collard, fifth in his WSR BMW. That position could have easily fallen to Jackson but contact between his Airwaves Ford Focus and Collard’s BMW at the chicane on the penultimate lap punctured his right front tyre – entering the hairpin he slid straight on in a plume of smoke before furiously retiring to the pit lane.

As a result, he has fallen to third in the standings behind Neal and Shedden who now jointly lead the championship, just two points clear of Jackson – the Airwaves driver will have to start race two from 19th on the grid…

Sixth, up from 12th on the grid, was another of the title contenders, James Nash in his 888 Racing with Collins Contractors Vauxhall Vectra. Nash took advantage of several drivers tripping up ahead of him to make up several places and made two more in one hit when Chilton’s team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole’s Focus and Rob Austin’s Audi A4 tangled and crashed out together at Clark's – an incident that necessitated a safety car period so as to recover their battered machines.

Seventh was Jason Plato in his Silverline Chevrolet Cruze after just holding off Tom Boardman and Andrew Jordan who took eighth and ninth in their Special Tuning SEAT Leon and Pirtek Vauxhall Vectra respectively.

Keeping clear of trouble to take a superb tenth on his BTCC debut was Nash’s team-mate, young Irishman Aron Smith as he fended off Collard’s team-mate Nick Foster in a dash to the line.

A recovering 12th was Plato’s team-mate Alex MacDowall who’d fallen to the tail of the field after pitting to have debris cleared from his car’s radiator during the safety car period. That followed contact with Martin Byford’s AmD Milltek VW Golf which later retired from the race with more damage to both its front and rear. Daniel Welch and Liam Griffin also failed to finish, Welch due to a loose turbo pipe on his Welch Motorsport Proton Gen-2 and Griffin with damage to his Airwaves Focus.

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