Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
Tom Chilton has dominated race 1 at Knockhill to take victory in round 19 of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship to take his first victory of the season and the first victory for Team Aon in their new for this year ‘Global’ Ford Focus.
However the big news to come out of an action packed race was the non points finish of championship leader Mat Jackson after he got a puncture after contact with Rob Collard and went straight on at the final corner and with the Honda duo of Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden coming 2nd and 3rd they now are level on 160points at the top of the standings with Jackson now 2 points behind the pair.
“Obviously the new Global Ford Focus has the chassis to win but it takes time.
Chilton led away with the pack cleanly getting through the first corner although it wasn’t long before the first bit of contact was made when Shedden hit the back of Frank Wrathall half spinning the Toyota around across the circuit. With Wrathall sideways across the circuit Jason Plato had to back off allowing Jackson past Plato meanwhile Alex MacDowall in the second Chevrolet was also tapped sideways as he slid through the gravel at the chicane dropping him down the field.
Rob Austin in his own prepared Audi A4 had moved up to 3rd although he was quickly passed by Shedden on lap 2 with Jackson passing him just a lap later at the same spot. Austin remained in the thick of the action holing off Plato which let Tom Onslow-Cole in a second Team Aon Focus to get past the reigning champion using his turbo power advantage to pass Plato over the start finish line.
Onslow-Cole was quickly on the back of the Audi however both their races would come to a dramatic end when the pair made contact coming out of Clark sending the pair heavily into the barriers particularly Onslow-Cole who sustained massive damage to the right hand side of his car meaning his Arena team now have a massive job to do to get him out for race 2.
This brought out the safety car for a number of laps however when it came in Chilton was again quickly able to break clear of the pack while the rest battled behind with Neal holding up Shedden allowing Wrathall to close up behind. The man in the thick of the action though was Collard when on lap 22 he took advantage of Plato running slightly wide and with the pair running side by side into the single line chicane, Plato was forced to take to the grass allowing James Nash past Plato as well as he was making good progress in his Triple 8 Vectra.
Then just a lap later the same happened with Jackson however this time neither driver wanted to budge and the pair made contact with their wheels locking as the pair went either side of the chicane. This caused Jackson to have a puncture and as he approached the final corner he was unable to turn in going straight into the gravel although he was able to return to the pits and eventually return to finish a lap outside of the points.
However this didn’t matter to Chilton who simply ran away from the rest of the pack to eventually win by a massive 6.3seconds and said, “Obviously the new Global Ford Focus has the chassis to win but it takes time. The old Focus was leading the championship and that’s where we have to get too. But 1st podium first win is the first sign of what we can do. It has come through a lot of hard work and testing. The team has done a great job. It feels great, it feels so good. I’ve done a lot of training myself and have lost 3kg by training 1-2hours a day I’m just sorry it took half a year to get there.”
Neal finished second and was delighted with his race to tie with Shedden at the top of the standings and said, “If you said P2 at the beginning of the weekend I would have grabbed it with both hands, well 1 and half (due to his broken hand) ... I could see Shedden had the speed to get past and we spoke over the radio to the team about allowing him past but after a bit of thinking they got back to me and said Tom’s not in the championship battle and you’re both up there so you can sort it out although I wouldn’t have blamed him for a last lap Oulton move on me. However we got a great result for the team with both on the podium.”
Meanwhile Shedden who is commercial manager at the circuit during the weeks said, “I was all over the place trying to find a way past. However it would have been a bit silly to take a risk in race 1 but I know I have got a good car under me so who knows what could happen in races 2 and 3.”
Wrathall was able to take another 4th just like at Snetterton with the hard charging Collard taking 5th. Nash took a good 6th and he was another driver pleased with the non finish of Jackson as he closes in, in the Independent trophy. Behind Nash was Tom Boardman and Andrew Jordan for Special Tuning Racing and Pirtek Racing while debutant Aron Smith can be delighted to take the final point in 10th for Triple 8 racing in his first ever BTCC race.
So that’s race 1 out the way with the championship now being thrown wide open. How will Jackson now recover particularly now he starts from right down the tail end of the grid? So for all these answers be sure to return to Motorsport.com in just over 2 hours for full details from race 2.