Pat Cranham, BTCC Correspondent
Predictably it was the always-fast starting Collard who made the most of his rear wheel drive power to lead into the first corner in his BMW, leading an incident free lap 1. The first lap may have been incident free but lap 2 was anything but and will probably go down as the most incident packed lap of the season.
First Frank Wrathall in his Dynojet prepared Toyota Avensis got a bump from behind, spinning across the wet grass at Duffus Dip. At the next corner, Andy Neate was off at Scotsman in his MG, after making contact with the Binz Racing Vauxhall Vectra of Lea Wood, pitching him up in the air briefly and sending him off.
But the lap was to get even worse for MG as more importantly Plato was off just a few corners later. Youngster Aron Smith had been all over Plato on the opening lap as his S2000 Ford Focus got its tyres up to temperature quicker.
Coming out of the chicane Aron Smith was clearly a lot quicker than Plato and, with the pair moving all over the road, they made left rear to right front contact and sent Plato off into the barriers.
Speaking after the incident a furious Plato, who was also less than happy last year after another incident that time with Tom Boardman, again slammed a fellow competitor this time in Aron Smith and said, “It would be very easy to lay into him but it’s outrageous. We have got cars out there with huge speed disparities because of the regulations but if I have the inside line then that’s mine and you have to decide if your going one way or the other, not into me. During the first lap he was into me at every corner, not once but several times. It’s obvious that his job was to take me out of the race. The lad needs to lose his licence for that.”
Aron Smith said he was not to blame for the incident but agreed with the speed differential and said, “I was a lot quicker than him with the different specification in cars but he tried to hang me out to dry. He kept coming back across after I got up the inside and at some point I just had to turn into the corner.”
In all the contact this allowed Onslow-Cole to take second while there was yet more contact further back at the Hairpin, with Snetterton race winner Dave Newsham getting shoved through the gravel by the third eBay Motors BMW of Nick Foster. Simultaneously Jeff Smith spun across the wet gravel in his Pirtek Racing Honda Civic after contact with Dan Welch in his Welch Motorsport Proton.
After all the chaos of lap 2 this brought out a lengthy safety car period to retrieve the two MG’s and Wrathall. But when the safety car came in the two eBay Motors BMW’s simply drove away and, apart from one lap where the pair changed positions to give Onslow-Cole an extra point for leading the race across the line, the pair simply strolled the rest of the race.
Behind, Aron Smith was forming a roadblock as a huge train of 7 cars latched onto the Irishman’s Focus. Paul O’Neill was the first man behind him as he returned in Tony Hughes Speedworks Toyota Avensis, but after a failed attempt to pass him at the Hairpin this slowed him down, and allowed home hero Gordon Shedden to pass him in his Honda Yuasa Racing Civic a couple of corners later.
Shedden wouldn’t have any more luck in passing Aron Smith and made contact with the Redstone Ford at Carlube Corner half spinning Smith. This allowed O’Neill to get back at Shedden but instead lost a place to Mat Jackson, in the second Redstone Racing albeit the NGTC spec version, around the outside as he lost 5th.
The battle would continue for 3rd until the finish line and after Aron Smith braked early for the Hairpin on the final lap, Shedden was able to go around the outside and won the drag race to the line to take the final place on the podium.
Shedden now trails team mate Matt Neal, who finished 7th, by just 2 points. After the race Shedden admitted it had been a tough battle with Aron Smith and said, “it was touch and go for 3rd. It was such a difficult thing against him. Aron used the strength of his car to keep ahead. He braked early for the Hairpin on the last lap and I got around the outside; although I thought he would have driven back past me on the straight over the line.”
This didn’t matter for Collard as he took his second victory of the season, his first since round 1 of the championship, and said, “Very good for eBay Motors. Got off the line and out of the box very strong. The car was just awesome and drove so well today. We knew last year the BMW was strong and now with the turbo engine this year we got the result. We had a backward step at Snetterton with the championship but we have come back.”