BTCC: Rockingham Round-Up

A poor weekend for championship leader Matt Neal saw him slip to fourth overall with Andrew Jordan taking the lead. It showed how easily the championship can change. The weekend also saw the return of Andy Neate, the debut of Andy Wilmot and the move of Tom Onslow-Cole from Team HARD to Airwaves Racing. Jason Plato qualified on pole position for race one ahead of his team-mate Sam Tordoff.

Race 1

Drivers started on wet tyres due to rain before the race, but the track started to dry out. After the warm up lap Liam Griffin retired to the pits along with Jack Sears rival Lea Wood, who continue in the race. When the lights went out Andrew Jordan made a good start, passing around the outside to take the lead from fourth on the grid. Sam Tordoff lost out and dropped down the order. Further back there was chaos when Will Bratt was given a tap by Adam Morgan which sent him wide. Tom Onslow-Cole also spun while trying to avoid the other cars with Dan Welch and Andy Neate also getting involved. Elsewhere Jeff Smith and Howard Fuller had offs. The safety car was deployed in order to move stricken cars off the track. Onslow-Cole was able to recover to the pits but had to retire the car. He revealed that a brake caliper had become dislocated so he was not able to continue. “The car is ok – it’s a big shame for me and everyone at Airwaves Racing – not the start we wanted.” Racing resumed on lap six and the race was extended to 19 laps. Matt Neal had an uncharacteristic spin on the restart after catching a kerb, and he dropped right down the order. Up at the front pole-sitter Jason Plato was driving defensively to try and keep Gordon Shedden behind him. Mat Jackson tried to make it three abreast into a corner but eventually Shedden got past Plato to move into second, with Jackson also passing to move into third. There were various other drivers swapping positions including Rob Austin past Rob Collard, Frank Wrathall past Tordoff and Austin and Collard past Newsham. It was a close run to the line for Shedden and Austin, with the Audi driver just pipping reigning champion Shedden by two tenths to third place.

Race one top fifteen

1. Andrew Jordan
2. Mat Jackson
3. Rob Austin
4. Gordon Shedden
5. Jason Plato
6. Colin Turkington
7. Rob Collard
8. Dave Newsham
9. Jack Goff
10. Frank Wrathall
11. Nick Foster
12. Jeff Smith
13. Aron Smith
14. Matt Neal
15. Ollie Jackson

Race 2

Soft tyres: Rob Collard, Nick Foster and Aron Smith

After their incident in the first race, Will Bratt, Dan Welch and Andy Neate did not make the grid for race two. The track had also dried, allowing drivers to put on the dry compound tyres with three drivers starting on the soft compound. When the lights went out it was Rob Austin who made the best start, passing Andrew Jordan for the lead. Mat Jackson stayed in second place with Jordan losing out. Nick Foster and Jack Goff had off moments with Colin Turkington going wheel-to-wheel with team-mate Rob Collard. The early phase of Collard’s race was a good one, passing Jordan and Newsham while Matt Neal passed Turkington. Howard Fuller had a dramatic moment as he rushed into the hairpin, missing his braking point and passing Jason Plato. Thankfully there was plenty of run-off, allowing him to turn and return to track. There was drama towards the end of the race when Collard locked up into the hairpin and stopped. Neal seemed to do the same, following him off track and hitting his car. He later revealed it had been a problem with his steering rack and there had been nothing he could do to avoid Collard’s parked car. Collard was able to return to the pit-lane with a puncture and retired from the race. Liam Griffin was another driver who suffered a puncture, causing him to retire having failed to start the first race of the day. Up at the front it was a popular first victory for fan favourite Austin who had a 3.351s advantage over Shedden. Turkington finished in third place, taking some valuable championship points.

Race two top fifteen

1. Rob Austin
2. Gordon Shedden
3. Colin Turkington
4. Mat Jackson
5. Sam Tordoff
6. Jason Plato
7. Dave Newsham
8. Andrew Jordan
9. Tom Onslow-Cole
10. Jeff Smith
11. Adam Morgan
12. Nick Foster
13. Frank Wrathall
14. Jack Goff
15. Aron Smith

Race 3

Soft tyres: all bar the three who used them in race 2

Andrew Jordan was drawn for the reverse pole by race-winner Rob Austin. Liam Griffin did not make the grid due to a gearbox problem, meaning that Lea Wood merely had to win the Jack Sears class to become champion. At the start Jordan retained the lead with Colin Turkington progressing into second before losing out to Sam Tordoff. As was the case in the first race, the safety car was deployed early on due to an accident. Rob Collard and Jack Goff crashed after a slide from Jeff Smith left them with no-where to go. Racing resumed on lap five and the race distance was extended. While Jason Plato had had to be defensive in race one, he spent a few laps in race three on the offensive, trying to find a way past Turkington. There was contact between the pair as Turkington fought to hold onto his position. Matt Neal faced a fight through the pack from the back of the grid following his retirement in race two. Tom Onslow-Cole, who retired in race one but scored points in race two had a slide in the latter stages of the race, allowing Jeff Smith and Adam Morgan to pass him. There was some impressive racing on the last lap when Turkington ran wide into the hairpin, allowing Plato a way through. It wasn’t however, as Turkington immediately took the place back. Eventually it was Jordan who took his second win of the day ahead of Turkington and Plato. Lea Wood fought back in the latter stages of the win to take the Jack Sears trophy, meaning he won the championship.

Race three top fifteen

1. Andrew Jordan
2. Colin Turkington
3. Jason Plato
4. Mat Jackson
5. Gordon Shedden
6. Sam Tordoff
7. Matt Neal
8. Dave Newsham
9. Rob Austin
10. Jeff Smith
11. Adam Morgan
12. Tom Onslow-Cole
13. Aron Smith
14. Nick Foster
15. Ollie Jackson

Andrew Jordan now leads the championship by 30 points. Gordon Shedden lies second with Colin Turkington just three points behind him. Former championship leader Matt Neal is now fourth one point behind Turkington. The action continues next weekend at Silvestone.

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