Matt Neal became the third driver to dominate a BTCC race from pole position at Oulton Park today, but the result could have been better for the Honda team.
From fourth on the grid Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden muscled his way into second place after front-row starter Josh Cook’s MG6 ran across the grass while trying to get past Neal. The two Hondas then opened a 12-second gap to the field, only for Shedden’s car to puncture its left-front tyre with just two of the 15 laps left.
Behind the leaders third place was the subject of a race-long battle. The Speedworks Toyota Avensis of Tom Ingram, which to this point had enjoyed an unspectacular but productive points day, held the third spot for much of the race, with Cook behind him followed by the two Subaru Levorgs of Jason Plato and race one winner Colin Turkington.
This battle was soon joined by the BMWs of race two winner Sam Tordoff and team-mate Rob Collard, who had again fought his way up the field, this time from 25th after a puncture and spin in race two.
With three laps left Cook’s attempts to find a way past Ingram became more frenzied, allowing Tordoff to take advantage, and with a lap left the BMW passed both cars into second as Shedden’s puncture struck.
Cook wasn’t finished, and an attempt to squeeze inside Ingram when heading to the final corner resulting in contact with the Speedworks Toyota which put two wheels on the grass, allowing Plato to steal the final podium spot on the run to the line, completing a hat trick of third spots for the Subaru driver.
Ingram, meanwhile, was not impressed with Cook, the Toyota lunging left and pushing the MG briefly off the circuit on the slowing down lap.
Tordoff’s second place means that the BMW driver leaves Cheshire with the most slender of leads over Neal, by a single point. Rob Collard is next up, 26 points further back, with the unlucky Shedden a point behind the BMW.
Perhaps the biggest winners of the weekend, however, were the Subaru Levorgs of Team BMR. With five podium places from the three Oulton Park races including their first win, the team has overnight gone from makeweights to contenders. The championship resumes on 19th June at Croft in Yorkshire, Tordoff’s home circuit, and he will know the challenge from his rivals has got significantly stronger.
Main photo: PSP Images