BMW and Honda emerged in front from a long and milestone-setting day of British Touring Car Championship racing at the series’ fastest venue of Thruxton.
Honda’s Matt Neal took the opening race, his 60th BTCC win, at the 2.36-mile Hampshire circuit, but the rest of the day turned to the unfancied rear-wheel-drive BMWs – Rob Collard and Colin Turkington took the German marque to 100 BTCC victories.
Race one – Hondas dominate
The first 16-lap race proved just how well Thruxton suits the Honda Civic, a one-two-three in qualifying translating to a lock-out of the podium.
Pole sitter Matt Neal led the way, making a solid start in his Halfords Yuasa Racing Civic to stay in front of team-mate and reigning champion Gordon Shedden. Thereafter Neal was never headed, coming home a second clear for his 60th BTCC race victory, promoting him to joint second in the all-time standings alongside 1970s and ’80s superstar Andy Rouse.
Shedden enjoyed a lonely race, never challenged for the runner-up spot despite his Civic carrying the full 75kg of success ballast following earlier successes. The Scotsman looked after his tyres well around the challenging circuit to secure the one-two for the works team.
Jack Goff completed the podium with his best result so far in the Eurotech Civic. He had to work hard for it, in the closing stages coming under heavy pressure from the Speedworks Toyota Avensis of championship leader Tom Ingram. Making up for his disappointment at having his fastest qualifying time taken away the previous day, Ingram soon recovered the lost places to keep his title bid on track.
Adam Morgan’s Cicely Racing Mercedes A-Class completed the top five, chased by Ashley Sutton, again by far the best of the four-car Subaru team. Sutton’s Levorg GT finished some 17 places ahead of his nearest team-mate, Jason Plato, who continued to struggle despite a turbo boost increase awarded to both the Subaru and Ford entries ahead of the Thruxton meeting. Also struggling were BMW, Colin Turkington the team’s highest finisher in seventh ahead of Matt Jackson’s Motorbase Ford Focus.
Race two – no contest
Race two unfortunately turned into almost a non-event. Once again the front of the grid was solus Honda territory and Matt Neal again led the way from the green light, but further back in the pack too many cars tried to occupy the same piece of track and the MG6 of Daniel Lloyd was pitched into a high-speed impact with the barrier.
Fortunately Lloyd emerged unscathed from his wrecked MG as the red flags flew, the barrier having suffered extensive damage. Repairing them delayed a resumption for more than an hour.
On the restart, over a scheduled 10 laps, Neal again led the way while further back Rob Collard made an electric start in his West Surrey Racing BMW, overtaking three cars and only just failing to snatch second from the second Honda of Shedden.
A lap later Goff’s red Honda challenged the orange Halfords one at the chicane, and the opportunistic Collard took both in the process, Shedden briefly demoted to fourth. This became third as Neal’s leading car abruptly slowed and pitted with a power steering issue, and Shedden then immediately regained second spot, now behind Collard.
Despite its extra weight the Honda looked capable of challenging for the lead, closing onto the BMW’s tail, but then the red flags flew again. Martin Depper’s Ford Focus had flown off the circuit and while he stepped out, with the damaged car in a dangerous position and the programme already much behind officials decided to declare a result.
Race Three – BMW’s ton
Fresh from its victory the WSR BMW team was given more good news when the draw for the third race reversed the top six positions, putting Colin Turkington on pole position with Rob Austin’s Toyota Avensis alongside.
Almost an hour late the race got underway with Turkington converting his pole position into a lead he never looked close to surrendering, pulling out to a 2.5-second winning margin at the end of the 16 laps.
Fellow front-row sitter Austin was muscled down the field as the race went on, with Goff’s Eurotech Honda sitting in second for much of the race until Ingram’s Avensis found a way by to complete a strong points day for the Speedworks driver and retain his championship lead.
Goff and Shedden followed the Toyota home, ahead of Austin and Sutton, again proving the class of the Subaru team. Most impressive of all, however, was Matt Neal, coming from 29th on the grid to 10th at the flag.
Ingram heads to the next round, at Oulton Park in Cheshire on 21st May on 131 points, 17 ahead of Shedden (114) with the two BMWs of Turkington and Collard next up on 112 and 103 points.