Turkington takes title lead after Croft

Turkington takes title lead after Croft

Colin Turkington took yet another two fantastic victories at Croft in rounds 13 and 14 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, to go into the mid season break with a 25-point lead over Matt Neal. Fabrizio Giovanardi took victory in the ...

Colin Turkington took yet another two fantastic victories at Croft in rounds 13 and 14 of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, to go into the mid season break with a 25-point lead over Matt Neal. Fabrizio Giovanardi took victory in the third race of the day after the weather had taken a turn for the worse and now trails Turkington by 29-points.

Colin Turkington - Race Winner.
Photo by Pat Cranham.

The first race of the day took part in glorious sunshine, which suited the two Team RAC BMW's as both Turkington and Stephen Jelley, who took second off the line, looked totally in control to take a 1-2 for West Surrey Racing and for Jelley to take his first BTCC podium; although this was not to be his first of the day.

Jason Plato would take third but behind him there would be action all the way down the field. This sadly didn't involve Adam Jones after he was robbed of challenging for a podium when on the warm up lap he reported a tyre vibration and the mechanics spent too long on the grid trying to fix it, which resulted in Jones receiving a stop and go penalty.

The first bit of contact happened on lap 3 when James Nash hit James Thompson going into the final corner, which allowed Fabrizio Giovanardi past the pair, who was trying to recover from his disappointing qualifying position, something that the Italian would do. As Thompson and Nash continued their barging match through the first corner this also allowed Jonny Adam past the pair. Thompson would then suffer for the rest of the race with a broken damper while Nash would just miss out on a point finishing in 11th with excessive tyre wear.

Giovanardi would continue his charge up the field by passing both his team mates before also benefiting after Mat Jackson crashed coming out of the chicane, putting a premature end to his day.

Rob Collard was another driver to climb through the grid after starting in tenth and would eventually finish in fourth after barging past Harry Vaulkhard at the final corner. Vaulkhard had been running a fine 4th but this clearly knocked the local ace off his stride and it all went down hill very quickly form there. In the following lap he almost copied what Jackson had done by running wide out of the chicane, although he was able to hold it. This allowed Giovanardi up to 5th dropping Vaulkhard into Giovanardi's teammates tracks in Matt Neal.

Neal quickly made his move into tower and with Vaulkhard desperate not to lose any more places, made an optimistic move back at Neal resulting in him spinning into the plough fields with Neal continuing having just missed the barriers.

Vaulkhard would still not give up though and continued before spinning as a result of the damage sustained in the previous accident and as he spun the unlucky Tom Chilton smashed into him. With both cars severely damaged and stranded in the middle of the track the race was red flagged one lap early. Vaulkhard's car would be a write off and wouldn't make another appearance during the weekend, while Chilton's car wouldn't be repaired until the third race of the day.

This didn't matter to Team RAC who celebrated their first 1-2 of the day from Plato, Collard, Giovanardi, Neal, Adam, Andrew Jordan, Paul O'Neill and Dave Pinkney. Elsewhere there was more bad luck for Dan Eaves whose race ended early in the gravel after contact with Pinkney, which caused Eaves also to miss out race 2.

Race 2 started in the finishing positions from race 1 and again took part in bright sunshine. Once again the two RAC BMW's would lead from start to finish taking another fine 1-2. They were followed into the first corner by another BMW this time of Collard in the Airways BMW but there was disappointment for the other Airways car as Jonny Adam retired on the opening lap from 6th.

It was clear though that Collard was holding up the pack as a train of cars queued up behind him of Plato, Giovanardi, Neal and Jordan. Plato would eventually make his move into tower on lap 10, although Collard tried to come back at him like Vaulkhard did to Neal in the previous race. This time Collard used his experience to think better of it and conceded the place although he would defend 4th from the other 3 Vauxhalls.

Plato would take off in chase of the two RAC BMW's but the pair weren't to be denied as Turkington took his 5th win of the season, in what was his 200th race of his BTCC career, from Jelley who took his second ever BTCC podium. Behind Plato, Collard and the three Vauxhalls, Adam Jones had a storming drive from the back of the grid to finish 8th just ahead of Thompson and O'Neill, who enjoyed a race long battle.

For the third race of the day the unlucky Harry Vaulkhard pulled the reverse grid out of the bag and for the 4th time out of 5 meetings the top 10 would be reversed. The weather had also changed from tropical sunshine to a tropical rain shower as the cars were greeted by lashing heavy rain causing chaos to the race. O'Neill would lead the start off the line from pole just ahead of Thompson. Meanwhile behind them Jones' horrid weekend would continue when he was knocked into the barriers by Collard, which brought out the first of many safety car periods. The safety car would come out for a couple of laps in which time the weather got worse. As the racing got back under way Collard would have a trip through the gravel at the first corner while both James Nash and Martin Johnson would both do the same but both would reach the barriers causing the safety car to come out yet again, not before Giovanardi had passed Thompson for second.

The race restarted on lap 10 with the unfortunate O'Neill pulling immediately straight over with a suspected alternator problem. This allowed Giovanardi the lead but this would be short lived as he ran wide on standing water, allowing Thompson to take the lead. Meanwhile in the other Team Dynamics Honda Civic Dave Pinkney aquaplaned off the road heavily causing the safety car to come back out again, although Jelley got past Jordan for third after moving up from 9th on the grid, which he would finish, in taking his third podium of the day and the third podium in his BTCC career!

The safety car came in on lap 14 with the rain stopped. Giovanardi would quickly pressure and pass Thompson in what was surely one of the passes of the season, with the Italian passing Thompson with a stunning move around the outside of him at the double right hander at Sunny. Giovanardi would not now be stopped and with the Vectra clearly now more suited to the conditions would pull away to take his second victory of the season.

Less fortunate would be Giovanardi's team mate Matt Neal who was tagged into a controversial spin by Jason Plato at the first corner dropping Neal down to 10th, although he would gain a couple of places up to 8th with Plato continuing and finishing in 5th. The stewards, however after the race penalised Plato with a reprimand and penalty points, both drivers had different views on the incident, Plato said "I simply aquaplaned into Matt going into the corner - my car was out of control as I tried braking. Then as we turned the corner there was a huge puddle and I had to hit the power to get out of it and there was a bit more contact. It wasn't deliberate and I did try explaining to him afterwards. If it hadn't been Matt then it would have been someone else." While Neal didn't have the same view on the incident by saying "Jason reckons he aquaplaned into me... which I can accept to a point. But to then keep your foot in at the exit of the corner and turn someone around is pushing it to the limits, I'd say. Bear in mind he'd already hit me twice at the previous corner as well. He had me off at the Old Hairpin at Donington Park as well but I'm a big enough boy to realise that what goes around comes around."

Finishing in 6th and furthering his championship lead was Turkington ahead of Collard, Neal, Adam and Tom Chilton, finally giving his team something to cheer about after their massive rebuild from race 1, while his stand in team mate Tom Onslow-Cole had a terrible day with reliability failing to finish a single race.

The BTCC now heads off into its midseason break with Turkington leading he championship by 25-points from Matt Neal. He now heads to Snetterton in 6 weeks with a commanding lead in the championship, which is the first time he's led the championship at the end of a race meeting during his 201 BTCC race career. A delighted Turkington said "I'm delighted with the way it's going, obviously, but I am a bit surprised we were so much quicker than the Vauxhalls today - I thought they'd be closer. But we're no fools. We know they will return in August really strong so we have to try to keep this momentum going. To have the advantage I've got is a real bonus, but we've still got half the season still to go."

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