Reigning double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi got his title bid back on track after securing a superb double victory and second place in a day of high drama and controversy at Snetterton; which also saw series leader Colin Turkington take the other...
Reigning double champion Fabrizio Giovanardi got his title bid back on track after securing a superb double victory and second place in a day of high drama and controversy at Snetterton; which also saw series leader Colin Turkington take the other victory, only after winner on the road James Nash was disqualified.
The drama started right from the first lap of the race. Turkington used his BMW rear wheel drive to propel it past pole sitter Jason Plato at the start. However, Plato would quickly mount another attack and as the pair entered the Esses on the first lap, he dived down the inside and spun the Team RAC driver onto the infield. This then slowed up Plato allowing Andrew Jordan to challenge him, clipping his rear and this time sending the Team Silverline driver into a spin. Turkington would continue and eventually finish fifth while Plato tried to continue but retired a few laps later.
Both Plato and Turkington remained calm despite the incident and losing points. Turkington said, "I can understand why Jason went for it so soon - he wanted to get past me because the BMW has been very strong over a full race distance in recent rounds. It was perhaps a bit ambitious on his part but I know he's not the sort of driver to take me off deliberately. I'm a bit miffed but I'd have been more annoyed if I'd not finished - at least I was still able to pick up some points."
Plato had some second thoughts over the move but admitted he's there to win by saying, "I'm not here to finish second - I'm here to win. I'm a racing driver. In hindsight maybe I should have left it for later but when an opportunity comes your way you have to take a good look at it. It's just a racing incident, nothing more."
This allowed Giovanardi up to second where he quickly passed his younger VXRacing team mate a place, which the Italian didn't look like losing despite a brief safety car period for the slowing James Thompson, who had gearbox problems after running in fourth in the opening stages. Jordan remained in second until lap 12, while coming under pressure from Mat Jackson, slid coming into the esses and spun across the infield.
This allowed Jackson to take second ahead of fans favourite and unlucky man of 2009 so far, Paul O'Neill, to take third place after he got ahead of Airways BMW driver Jonny Adam. An emotional O'Neill said afterwards, "A lot of people here have put their effort in to me, so it's just trying to repay them. I can't believe the reception I've got here, it's unbelievable."
Adam was able to hang on to fourth just ahead of the recovering Turkington with Adam Jones giving the Cartridge World team something to cheer about, after new teammate Gordon Shedden was forced out with gear selection trouble. Dave Pinkney came home in 8th for his best result of the season so far ahead of early championship leader Matt Neal, who twice had run off the road and also had a barding move with Rob Collard on the penultimate lap, when Collard tried to pass Neal round the outside of the esses locking up and running wide. This allowed Neal back up the inside and with the pair running side by side in to the tight bomb hole there was only going to be one winner. Collard took to the grass allowing Harry Vaulkhard into tenth and scoring the last point in the newly formed Bamboo Engineering's first race.
Race 2 saw a dominant lights to flag victory for Giovanardi where he led from start to finish with little challenge. The Italian led off the line defending from Mat Jackson into the first corner and never looked back from there. There was less good news for his fellow Vauxhall teammates, however, with Matt Neal having alternator problems, off the line when he jumped forward too early from the start and then almost stalled off the line. As he went into the first corner he was side by side with Tom Chilton and his other Team mate Andrew Jordan. Unsurprisingly there was contact forcing Jordan into a big slide and running wide, he would eventually limp home in 13th. Meanwhile to add further misery for Neal he was also given a drive through penalty for the original jump-start. There were also more incidents on the opening lap down at the Esses as Jones and Jelley made contact forcing Jelley into a spin; neither would finish in the points afterwards.
There was disappointment for Jackson whilst running in second he had mechanical trouble forcing him to retire from the race and forcing him to miss the final race of the day.
Turkington would finish second ahead of star of the race Plato, who had moved up from 19th-3rd after his trouble from the first race. Plato said after the race, "I'd had a long face after race one when I'd retired but this is a big help. I'm in this championship to win it, after all, so although Colin and Fabrizio have pulled slightly further away I've at least limited the damage as much as I could from a difficult position."
James Thompson also recovered from his race 1 retirement finishing in fourth after passing race 1 podium finisher O'Neill, who finished fifth.
Just behind O'Neill was the pair of Airways BMW's with Jonny Adam finishing ahead of Rob Collard. Next up was James Nash scoring his first points after a terrible weekend to date after mechanical problems forced him to miss qualifying and out of race 1. Harry Vaulkhard finished in an all-important ninth, as this was the number drawn out of the lottery and would be the front row for the final race of the day. Gordon Shedden would score the final points in his debut weekend for Cartridge World in their Seat Leon.
In race three Vaulkhard's joy would be short lived as Collard, from third, got a storming start and would go straight between the two Chevrolets. There would be further disappointment for Vaulkhard on the first lap, who continued to slip down the field and then made contact with Thompson through the right- hander of Coram sending the Chevrolet heavy into the barriers and shredding Thompson's rear left tyre.
Nash was second with Adam in third coming under pressure from Plato. Plato made his move in Sear corner on lap 6, but immediately got a puncture into the next corner and went off the road at the Esses. Plato would drag the car back to the pit but would go a lap down as a result.
The safety car would come out on lap 8 after Tom Chilton's Focus produced an oil slick around the circuit. Jonny Adam would be one of the drivers to slip down the field as a result, losing a couple of positions, but his afternoon would get even worse when as the safety car came in he got on the power to early and spun his BMW at the chicane.
At the restart youngster James Nash put huge pressure on race leader Collard and on lap 13 he attempted to make his way past. Entering the second part of the Esses he gave Collard a tap behind and, on the way out entering the bomb hole, he again tapped the Airways BMW this time resulting in Collard to spin across the infield and back on the circuit where he was heavily hit by Stephen Jelley. Although initially getting out of the car Collard then complained of abdominal pains and was later taken to hospital where he was later discharged without any further problems, apart from a headache from hell as Collard explained, "Initially I was winded but then I think the anger at what had happened took over and I started to put a brave face on it. But in the medical centre I felt awful again. I was given morphine and eventually came round in an ambulance on my way to the hospital. It's nothing more than swelling around my kidneys but I have got the headache from Hell! I feel like I've been run over by a steamroller."
James Nash would then go on and take the victory on the road and, despite stepping on the top step of the podium, was later disqualified; something which Collard was not too upset by saying, "He'd already hit me quite hard several times and this time he had me off, simple as that. Maybe it was inexperience on his part. He had the quickest car so he should try to use his car's performance to overtake, not his bumper."
"The shunt couldn't have come at a worse time - there's quite a bit of damage to the car and there's only a short gap between the next round in Knockhill in Scotland when the team has to leave the workshop earlier than normal due to the extra travel involved. Any hope I had of the title I now long gone. It's such as a shame because I felt we were the car-driver-team to beat in the opening round at Brands Hatch back in April. But I've been pushed off more times this year than in my career by Jelley, Jordan and yesterday Shedden in race one and then Nash. Maybe they know if they don't give me a nudge I'll disappear into the distance. Third place is still up for grabs. Matt (Neal) and Jason (Plato) aren't too far ahead so that is what I'm going for."
This unsurprisingly brought out the safety car, although it came out with very little notice and caught out the drivers, none more so than O'Neill who almost ran up the back of Turkington forcing him to take avoiding actions and then narrowly missed the barriers.
Excluding Nash the battle for the win would then be for second. Turkington had it with O'Neill briefly behind him before being passed by all three Vauxhalls and Thompson. With O'Neill quickly dispatched, Giovanardi put Turkington quickly under pressure along with team mate Neal. However, Turkington would hold on to take his 6th victory of the season. Jordan would bring the third Vauxhall home in fourth ahead of Thompson, who benefited from the safety car periods after his earlier collision, and O'Neill. Jones would finish ahead of the recovering Adam with Dave Pinkney next, having passed Martin Johnson on the last lap for what he thought was for the final point. However, with Nash being disqualified Johnson was promoted to tenth to score an historic point for his ever ageing Vauxhall Astra Coupe.
Turkington now leads Giovanardi by 17 points heading into Scotland in two weeks, and was delighted by his weekend particularly after his coming together in race 1 and said, "I'm really happy with my results today particularly considering I had a spin in race one and I never quite perfected the balance of my car." He also said that the championship is now not just a two horse race between himself and Giovanardi and admitted how things could have been different by saying, "I think it's too early to call it a two-horse race between Fabrizio and myself. Sure, we've broken away slightly but it can turn around so quickly. Just think if I'd not recovered from that spin in race one - there could have been a very different look at the top of the championship tonight."
Giovanardi also agreed with the Team RAC driver but was delighted to be back very much in the hunt for a hat trick of titles and said that the weekend had given him even more motivation, "Colin is right. Matt and Jason are still in this and there is still a lot of hard racing to be done. But I am very happy today. We discovered a problem with our car in the previous round and we've started to make improvements again. I'm always motivated, but now I am really motivated!"
So be sure to join us at Knockhill, Scotland in two weeks time for the latest instalment of high drama and action packed racing, to see if anyone will take control of the championship.