Behind him were two drivers with extraordinary tales to tell. Adam Jones finished second in a three year old Seat and Matt Neal stormed through to third after an early pit stop left him almost last.
Mat Jackson leapt into the lead at the start, diving around the outside at Redgate. But only a few corners later Gordon Shedden had nosed his Honda Civic ahead.
Jackson was swamped, with Darren Turner’s Seat threading past on the run towards the chicane and Matt Neal in close attendance.
In the pouring rain cars were falling off at every turn. Tom Chilton, who had started last, plunged into the gravel at Old Hall. Mike Jordan went off at MacLeans and BTCC returnee Tom Ferrier failed to get around the chicane – and that was just the first lap. Next time around Dave Pinkney also went off at the chicane.
Adam Jones surprised Colin Turkington with a smart move to steal fifth at Old Hall on the second lap. Neal also got ahead of Jackson at Redgate taking third.
Chilton was having a disastrous race with another accident on the second lap. On the fourth tour he hit Fiona Leggate’s MG and Ferrier hammered into him.
The safety car was called out to retrieve the battered Motorbase Seat. But it took a while to arrive and Neal went off and had to nip into the pits for a replacement tyre.
Lap eight saw the restart with Shedden leading Turner and Jackson, followed by the hugely impressive Jones, then the Team RAC BMWs of Colin Turkington and Tom Onslow-Cole, with Jason Plato trying to find a way past.
He got past at Redgate on lap 10 – but ran too deep into the corner and Onslow-Cole smartly re-passed him.
The pair caught Turkington and as Onslow-Cole tried to pass his team mate Plato got another run at Onslow-Cole. But that didn’t come off and Mike Jordan threaded past Plato as they descended the Craner Curves. Both drivers did magnificently well not to make subtantial contact.
With seven laps left the safety car returned to the track once more as Fiona Leggate had dislodged the tyre barrier at the chicane.
Lap 15 saw the race resume for a final five laps and Shedden maintained his advantage. But the rain got ever heavier and John George and Martyn Bell spun off separately at MacLeans.
Jones now appeared in third having passed Jackson, before Jordan made contact with the BMW at Old Hall and knocked him wide.
Jones’s third became second when Turner sent off and fell to 13th. His Seat team mate Plato’s careful drive now placed him fourth. But Matt Neal had put in a drive worthy of his two championships, sliced through the field, caught Plato and passed him with two laps to go.
There was more to come as he seized the final podium position from Jordan on the final tour.
That dropped Jordan to fourth ahead of Plato, who was grateful of the points as title rival Fabrizio Giovanardi struggled all race with a badly misted windscreen and finished eighth between Matt Allison and Turkington.
Jackson and Onslow-Cole completed the top ten.