WINS FOR THOMPSON & COLLARD AT DONINGTON PARK AS NEAL INCREASES POINTS LEAD OVER TURKINGTON Team Dynamics' James Thompson and Airwaves BMW's Robert Collard were the winners in today's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the...
WINS FOR THOMPSON & COLLARD AT DONINGTON PARK AS NEAL INCREASES POINTS LEAD OVER TURKINGTON
Team Dynamics' James Thompson and Airwaves BMW's Robert Collard were the winners in today's three HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship races at the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire. But it is Vauxhall driver Matt Neal who continues to lead the standings - by an increased margin - as the UK's top race series next heads to the Oulton Park circuit in Cheshire on Sunday 31 May.
Yorkshireman Thompson (pictured leading, right) romped to wins in both the first and second races, held in wet and dry conditions respectively, in his Honda Civic. His first victory made BTCC history for it meant the first seven races of 2009 had all been won by different drivers, breaking the previous record of six in a row. In race two, Thompson, a double BTCC Champion, then became the first driver this season to achieve two wins before Collard added his second victory of the year in race three - a result that has reignited his title bid.
Neal, though, remains the man on top. The 2005 and 2006 Champion was second in race one and third in race two to briefly go 22 points clear of nearest championship challenger Colin Turkington. But Team RAC BMW driver Turkington, who had spun out of race one, pegged the gap back to just 13 points when he finished second in race three. Collard's race three win has catapulted him up to third equal in the standings with Neal's team-mate, the reigning Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi who's best result of the day was a third place finish, in race two.
Worcestershire's Neal said: "I'd built myself a pretty tidy buffer over Colin by the end of race two but race three shows just how quickly it can all turn around. My car is working really well at the moment, but the next two circuits, at Oulton Park and Croft, will be strong for the BMWs so we've got a big fight ahead of us. Plus James in that Honda is looking very handy as are the Chevrolets. Seven different winners in seven races underlines just how competitive the BTCC is."
Northern Irishman Turkington, meanwhile, was relieved to have kept Neal in his sights. The 27-year-old from Portadown added: "I said before if I could leave Donington with a hand still on Matt's back I'd be happy. It could have been a better situation if I'd not been spun out in race one, but I'm still relatively satisfied, particularly as I know Oulton and Croft will be two of our strongest circuits."
Meanwhile, there were strong performances from a number of other teams and drivers. In Saturday's qualifying session, Vauxhall's Andrew Jordan, aged just 19 years and 358 days, had set a record as the youngest driver in history to take pole position for a BTCC race - ahead of Harry Vaulkhard in the new Tempus Sport team's Chevrolet Lacetti, who qualified a best-ever second fastest. Both also showed great pace in all three races today but, Thompson and Collard aside, perhaps the biggest smiles were to be found in the Team Aon pit garage as Tom Chilton gave its new Ford Focus ST - heavily revised for Donington - a first-ever points finish.
Elsewhere, Vauxhall/VX Racing has extended its lead in the BTCC's Manufacturer/Constructor championship, as has VXR in the Teams' standings. Turkington continues to lead the Independent Drivers' standings but now from Collard who has moved into second. Collard's race win has also helped Airwaves BMW move one point ahead of Team RAC at the top of Independent Teams' table.