VX Racing closes in on BTCC title

The HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship round at Knockhill circuit in Scotland brought three podiums for VX Racing with Fabrizio Giovanardi, consolidating his second position in the Drivers’ Championship and closing the gap to nine points from leading driver, Colin Turkington. Matt Neal recovered from a disappointing non-finish in the first race to two fourth places, while Andrew Jordan had two seventh places as his best finishes of the day.

The first race produced solid results for Giovanardi and Jordan with sixth and seventh places respectively, while Neal was disappointed to have a DNF following a clash with Collard mid way through the race. Victory came in the second race for VX Racing with Giovanardi claiming his fifth win of the season so far. Neal produced a storming drive from the back of the grid to finish fourth, with Jordan taking the final points scoring position with a tenth place finish.  In the third race Giovanardi took a third place finish, with Neal just behind in fourth and Jordan taking a hard fought seventh place.

The VX Racing drivers lined up on the grid for the first race of the day under cloudy skies, but with a damp track after an earlier shower. Neal and Jordan were in seventh and eighth on the fourth row, while Giovanardi was further back in 11th position. Giovanardi dropped back to 12th at the start but recovered quickly and began moving through the field. By mid distance the Italian had overtaken young team mate Jordan, with the VX Racing trio in 7th, 8th and 9th places led by Neal.  Neal had moved up to sixth place but a clash with Jonny Adam ended up with an excursion across the grass and into the gravel, collecting Rob Collard en route and ending Neal’s race. 

With two stranded cars the safety car was deployed. Giovanardi was lying in sixth and Jordan in seventh for the restart and with six laps remaining Championship leader, Turkington, ahead of Giovanardi in fifth, was the next challenge for the Italian VX Racing driver. Both drivers overtook Jonny Adams to lie fourth and fifth, but on the last lap, as the two battled for position, Adam moved up the inside of Giovanardi, robbing him of his fifth place and demoting him to sixth just yards before the chequered flag. Jordan held station to cross the finish line in seventh place.

Giovanardi lined up in sixth for the second race with Jordan in seventh place and Neal bringing up the rear of the field after his non-finish. The reigning champion wasted no time in moving up the field and made easy work of his rivals to take the lead by lap 8. Neal was also giving the BTCC field a masterclass in touring car racing, picking off his rivals and storming through from the back to claim fourth place. With third placed Turkington five seconds ahead Neal ran out of laps to reach the podium and settled for fourth place at the chequered flag, while team mate Giovanardi led the field to his fifth win of the season.

Jordan did not fare so well in the second race. The youngest driver in the championship, Jordan was running well in sixth place until being pushed off track in the fight for track position, dropping him back to 12th place. He fought back and battled hard over the closing laps, finally taking 10th place at the chequered flag.

The top six positions were reversed for the third race, with Neal starting in third place, Giovanardi in sixth position and Jordan taking the green flag in 10th place. The first lap saw Neal battle with Paul O’Neill, with Neal winning through to retain third place. Giovanardi slipped to seventh, while Jordan improved to 10th at the end of the first lap. A crash for Gordon Shedden brought out the safety car and on the restart Neal put the pressure on, moving up to second place. Giovanardi pushed hard to take fifth place, despite carrying maximum ballast, with championship leader, Turkington, ahead of him, while Jordan shadowed his team mate, lying in sixth place at the halfway point.

Leader James Thompson defended hard from Neal, and as the pair squabbled over the lead, Mat Jackson took the opportunity to slide through and head the field. Neal passed Thompson to retake second and started to hunt down leader, Jackson. Meanwhile Giovanardi dropped to fourth behind Jason Plato and Jordan lost a place to lie seventh with five laps remaining.  The ballast-free car of Plato was attacking Neal’s second place, and the VX Racing driver was unable to hold him off, finally conceding position to him and to team mate Giovanardi in the closing stages of the race. Jordan retained his seventh position to the chequered flag to enjoy a strong finish to his weekend.

Giovanardi reflected, “It’s been a good weekend and I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. We’ve taken the fight to Turkington and closed in on him. After a bit of a struggle at the start of the weekend, we’ve come out with some good results and plenty of points. I did what I could in the first race and that was good enough to put me in a position for podiums. Jason was very fast and he was a problem, but I had to focus on Turkington. I’ve never had to defend so hard from anyone as I’m doing with him”.

Neal commented on his Knockhill race day, “The car was working well all day, but I just couldn’t use it in the first race. I guess I shouldn’t be disappointed coming from the back of the grid on race two, but I was disappointed with race three as I thought I could take the win. But as soon as the Chevvy’s came through that was it. I was pretty sure I’d be able to have a go at O’Neill, Turkington, Thompson, but the Chevvies were just too quick. As soon as Plato came up there was no chance. I thought I’d put up a fight and not let him through easily but I didn’t want to end up losing out myself. My championship hopes are all but over now, really after the first race today, so now it’s a case of helping the team and Vauxhall taking the titles.”

Jordan said of his weekend, “The first race was a solid start, but I was a bit annoyed after the second race after being bumped on to the grass when I was running sixth. I thought we’d have been able to finish around there, but then I ended up starting tenth for the third race. In the last race we had a good pace and were able to battle with the front runners. I was fighting with James Thompson and given half a chance I would have had a go at getting past, but he’s very wily and just never gave an inch. Overall, it was another character building weekend, but with plenty of good experience gained and improving my pace.”

Results

Race 1

6.     Fabrizio Giovanardi

7.     Andrew Jordan

DNF Matt Neal

Race 2

1.    Fabrizio Giovanardi

4.    Matt Neal

10.  Andrew Jordan

Race 3

3.   Fabrizio Giovanardi

4.   Matt Neal

7.   Andrew Jordan

Championship Standings

Drivers’ Championship 2009

1.      Colin Turkington                                  206 points

2.      Fabrizio Giovanardi                             197 points

3.      Matt Neal                                             152 points

8.      Andrew Jordan                                    81 points

Manufacturers’/Constructors’ Championship

1. Vauxhall/VX Racing                                  508 points

2. Honda/Team Dynamics                           299 points

3. Ford/Team Aon                                        182 points

Teams’ Championship

1. VX Racing                                                365 points

2. Team RAC                                               281 points

3. Airwaves BMW                                         196 points