BTCC Race 1, Neal wins race of attrition

Matt Neal has won today’s first Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Oulton Park after Jason Plato, who’d qualified on pole position, failed to start.

It was Robert Collard, lining up third on the grid, who got the best start to lead the opening laps in his eBay Motors BMW. But Neal was quickly up to him and through under braking for Lodge Corner in his Yuasa Honda Racing Team Civic (pictured).

From there he led all the way to the finish but in the closing stages came under pressure from Andrew Jordan’s Pirtek Racing Civic which had also found a way past Collard at the Island Bend hairpin.

Collard finished third and may well have been joined in fourth by team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole but he agonisingly span out of the race at Cascades, this incident causing a brief safety car period and also one of many retirements in a race of attrition…

Reigning Champion Neal commented: “I really thought Jason would be tough to live with today so I didn’t mind when I saw his car being wheeled off the grid! This isn’t a result I expected today so I’m really happy.”

Jordan added: “I gave it all I’d got but Matt was quick in the right places and there was little I could do. After a bad time at Thruxton last time out this is just what we needed, though.”

And said Collard: “I’m pleased with third but the NGTC cars like the Hondas with their slightly bigger brakes and tyres really become so strong after the first few laps. It’s still a very good result but we could do with a bit more overall race pace.”

Meanwhile it was Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden who took fourth ahead of Mat Jackson’s Redstone Racing Ford Focus – up from tenth on the grid – and, celebrating a career-best sixth, Daniel Welch in his Welch Motorsport Proton Persona.

Andy Neate took advantage of a number of incidents ahead of him to take by far his best finish of the season to date, seventh in his MG KX Momentum Racing MG6. But for team-mate Plato the race was over before it had begun – expected by some to dominate from pole, instead his car was pushed off the grid before the start having suffered a component failure on the way to the grid. He rejoined later on for a few exploratory laps in his repaired car but will start the second race from 22nd and last on the grid.

Furthermore, Plato has lost his championship lead with Shedden now topping the table ahead of Neal...

An excellent eighth on his debut was Will Bratt in his Rob Austin Racing Audi A4. eBay’s Nick Foster was ninth ahead of Lea Wood’s BINZ Racing Vauxhall Vectra and Ollie Jackson’s AmD VW Golf which completed the top 11.

But there was chaos elsewhere. Foster was involved in two collisions which resulted in the retirements of Aron Smith (his Redstone Focus stopping with a punctured right rear tyre) and Adam Morgan who, on course for a best-ever eighth place result, span into the barriers exiting the hairpin on the final lap.

Redstone’s Liam Griffin also stopped when his car cut out exiting the hairpin, while Dave Newsham’s ES Vectra and Jeff Smith’s Pirtek Honda both retired in the pit lane with brake failure and engine damage respectively, the latter having damaged his car’s motor in a wild ride over the grass exiting Cascades corner.

It was a grassy moment exiting Old Hall corner that also cost Frank Wrathall dear – having run as high as sixth early on, this caused his Dynojet Toyota Avensis to overheat and he needed to make a quick pit stop before rejoining and finishing 12th. Overheating caused the downfall of Tony Gilham’s Team HARD. Civic but the most notable retirement was that of Chris James.

Approaching the dauntingly fast Druids Bend on the final lap, his ES Vectra suffered brake failure – perhaps the consequence of an earlier tangle with Tony Hughes’s Speedworks Toyota – and crashed heavily into the barriers. James was unhurt in the shunt. Hughes meanwhile was the last of the classified finishers in 13th after spinning in his scrape with James.

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