But all the action went on behind him, with Fabrizio Giovanardi surviving an off-road collision to take third place off championship rival Jason Plato.
The reversed grid put Tom Onslow-Cole in pole position alongside Mat Jackson, with the Seats of Darren Turner and Jason Plato behind them.
The two rear wheel drive BMWs had a substantial lead by the first corner, with Plato moving ahead of Turner. On the second lap Giovanardi cruised past Turner on the straight to take up station behind Plato. The Seat’s straight line speed deficiency was clear to see – Plato tried a similar move on Jackson for second but had to slot in behind the BMW.
When Giovanardi made an effort to pass Plato on lap four the Seat driver defended very smartly, forcing the Vauxhall to drop back and give him some vital breathing space.
Jackson then had a go at Turkington on lap seven but was rebuffed, and Plato got a run past into second.
Then came Giovanardi’s first scare of the day. While he was trying to drive around the outside of Jackson, Matt Neal tipped the Italian into a huge slide which he astonishingly held without losing a position.
After that drama the race settled for a few laps and while Plato struggled to pass Onslow-Cole, Jackson caught the pair of them again.
The decisive moment came on lap 16 – Jackson tried to pass Plato but was firmly rebuffed, allowing Giovanardi to get alongside the pair. He and Plato collided, the pair darted across the infield grass, and bounced back onto the circuit with Giovanardi ahead – but Neal past the pair of them. Jackson, however, was knocked off and dropped down the order.
That allowed Onslow-Cole to escape and he crossed the line to break his BTCC victory duck. Neal was second with Giovanardi in close attendance, Plato surviving to take fourth.
Plato’s championship lead has now been cut to 14 points, and although Matt Neal is mathematically still in contention it’s a very long shot. Team mate Gordon Shedden is now within 15 points of him.
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