A bumper crowd saw Colin Turkington take a double victory at Oulton Park along with James Thompson taking the third race in blistering sunshine at the Cheshire circuit. Turkington now only trails series leader Matt Neal by two points going into ...
A bumper crowd saw Colin Turkington take a double victory at Oulton Park along with James Thompson taking the third race in blistering sunshine at the Cheshire circuit. Turkington now only trails series leader Matt Neal by two points going into Croft in a couple of weeks, although Turkington did briefly lead the championship for the first time in the eighth year of his career in the British Touring Car Championship prior to the third race of the day.
It was Jason Plato who lined up on pole with his Team Silverline teammate Mat Jackson alongside him. It was Colin Turkington, however, who made an unbelievable start going straight through the middle of the two Chevrolet's to take a lead that he never looked like losing. The two Chevrolet's remained nose to tail for the whole race until the penultimate lap when approaching Druids Mat Jackson got a puncture and ran wide losing all points apart from the one he received for fastest lap. This benefited all drivers behind him, none more so than Jonny Adam who was able to put recent disappointment behind him to claim his second BTCC podium.
Fabrizio Giovanardi who was celebrating his 100th race in the series took fourth just ahead of Stephen Jelley. Giovanardi passed Jelley on lap 3 but the Italian didn't have it easy and Jelley pressured him right up to the flag. Adam Jones couldn't challenge for a podium despite starting in his best position of the year in fourth and eventually had to settle for sixth ahead of two former champions, Matt Neal and James Thompson. Next up was the battling duo of Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan. Jordan had led Collard for a large chunk of the race; this was until Collard tapped Jordan's car at Cascades sending the Vauxhall driver into a big slide and going on the grass. Both had different views on the incident and had further battles after the flag had gone down with the pair having to be separated in the pits.
Finishing eleventh and just missing out on a point on his BTCC debut was James Nash in another RML Chevrolet. There were two retirements from round 10 of Harry Vaulkhard who was tapped round into a spin by Paul O'Neill on lap 4 into the Knickerbrook chicane, breaking his suspension, and John George whose engine blew on the out lap which caused the driver's problems during the opening laps of the race because of the cement dust laid down to soak up the fluid from his engine.
Colin Turkington had no problems and took his second victory of the season due to his mega start, a point which pole sitter Plato was quick to admit by saying, "I made a decent start but Colin's was mega. And there was no way I was going to pass him. He is driving incredibly well at the moment." Turkington knew before the race that getting ahead at the start would be his main chance to get the win and said afterwards, "I knew if I made the most of the BMW's advantage off the start it could win me the race and that's exactly what happened. After that the car was great and even in this heat looking after the tyres was relatively easy."
With the second race grid decided by the finishing positions of race 1 Turkington would again take full advantage of this by taking a lights to flag victory to take the lead of the championship. His main challenge came in the opening laps from Giovanardi who made a great start from fourth to get second by the first corner, but the Northern Irishman was able to defend from him and then was able to push and build up another big lead and comfortably won by a massive seven seconds at the flag.
Behind Giovanardi it was less comfortable with a massive race long battle going on between Plato, Neal and Adam. Jelley was up to fourth for a bit before a scrap with him and Neal sent him all the way down the field. This meant Neal could battle with Plato and despite Neal feeling he had the better car could not get past the experienced Plato. This allowed Adam to close up on the pair after he passed Jordan on lap 6 while trying to recover from a poor start. During the final laps it was a three car train but the order would not change, despite Neal trying one last attempt on the final lap at Island bend making contact with the Chevrolet drive and partly ripping off his bumper and the pair had a drag race to the line where Plato just came out on top. Behind the battling trio was another pair who enjoyed a race long battle with Jordan finishing in sixth just ahead of James Thompson. This proved to be a very important battle as after the race and the lottery was drawn for the reverse grid this would be the front row for the final race of the day.
Just missing out on the grid lottery was Jones who finished ahead of local hero Paul O'Neil while in tenth, and with at last something to smile about, was Alan Morrison in his Team Aon Focus scoring his first points since his return to the championship benefiting from the unlucky Mat Jackson who retired on lap 13. Other retirements were fellow Chevrolet driver of Nash and title contender Collard, who had mechanical failure on the warm up lap.
In race 3 of the day James Thompson made the most of his pole position and led from the start to take his third victory in two race meetings, finishing ahead of Jordan who couldn't maintain his early challenge. The main battles were behind the front two which Matt Neal would eventually take and regain the lead of the championship from Turkington. It was Adam who had third at the start of the race this was until Neal tagged the rear of the BMW and spun him around down to the tail end of the field, this allowed Plato to take advantage and pass Giovanardi up to fourth.
Neal wouldn't be able to take it easy though for the rest of the race, first coming under pressure from Plato and then from star of the race Rob Collard who put in a contender for race of the year. Following his problems in the second race of the day Collard was forced to start down in 20th position but the Airways BMW put in an unbelievable race and eventually finished right behind Neal in fourth, passing along the way double reigning BTCC Giovanardi before then also getting past 2001 champion Plato on lap 12 to take fourth. He couldn't quite make it past a hat trick of champions in Neal and had to be happy with fourth and taking fastest lap of the race in the process.
Plato and Giovanardi would finish fifth and sixth ahead of Jones who put in yet another points scoring finish in seventh, while Jackson at last managed to finish in the points in eighth after his bad luck from the weekend. In ninth and tenth places for the second race running were Paul O'Neil and Alan Morrison. While championship leader going into the race Turkington couldn't finish in the top 10 after struggling through the closing stages of the race with what he thought was rear suspension damage following earlier contact, eventually losing tenth across the line to Morrison. Fellow Team RAC driver Jelley also enjoyed yet another incident packed race by first clashing and spinning on the entry to the Knickerbrook chicane firing him off while in a points scoring position, while he also had more contact on the final lap with Dave Pinkney sending both cars into the barrier exiting the chicane. As one Team Dynamics Civic was going into the barriers the other was crossing the finishing line in first position with James Thompson claiming his third victory of the season.
After the race triple race winner Thompson said, "That was very hard work even though I ended up with a decent gap at the end. Andrew really kept the pressure up in the early stages and only towards the end, once I'd built a cushion, did I choose to wind it off. Unlike Donington Park two weeks ago we've not quite been on the pace here so to still come away with a race win is very satisfying."
After the third race of the day Matt Neal now leads Turkington by only two points heading into Croft and admits that the racing has become very fast and furious and that the BMW may yet again have the advantage there by saying, "I actually feel a bit shell shocked. I seem to have been in the middle of it all day and certainly the racing is becoming very intense. We've been on the back foot a bit here and these have been three very tough races, plus we're heading to Croft next which is again BMW territory. We've just got to keep grinding out the results wherever possible."
Although disappointed by his third race of the day Turkington was not upset at not being in the lead of the championship actually admitting that this may be to his advantage and agrees with Neal that the BMW may have an advantage at the next race and said, "I got hit so many times in that last race I don't even know who it was hitting me! But I'm certainly not disappointed to have fallen back behind Matt. It's actually a slightly preferable position to be because being second means my car will be slightly lighter than his with success ballast going to Croft, just as it was coming here. I'm not saying we can repeat today's results there but I'm feeling very confident with the way the team has got the BMW working."
Elsewhere Giovanardi has moved back into third in the championship trailing Neal by 19 points with Plato also having moved past Collard into fourth with Vauxhall and Vxracing in the lead of both Manufactures and team championship. Turkington also enjoys a lead in the independents trophy from Plato.
So who will lead the championship after Croft in two weeks? Well that is anyone's guess but be sure to come back for full reviews after the event.