Thanks to a glorious example of car control Gordon Shedden clung on to victory around Knockhill in the first of the day's three British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) races on the series' swing north of the border.Jason Plato's save at the Brands season opener last year, Shedden pulled the car straight again, still ahead of the pack, with only a long, black arc at the top of the hill left to pay witness to the event (though the Scot's heart rate no doubt would have acted as further proof).
Shedden, who works at the track when not racing started from the outside of the front row, alongside Alex MacDowall, the Chevrolet driver hoping for better luck than followed his maiden pole position at Snetterton (when the gearstick broke only seconds into the race).
Happily the Cruze remained reliable throughout the race, but his lead may have lasted just as long as in Norfolk after Shedden pounced off the line. Getting the better start Shedden immediately dragged his Honda Racing Civic over to the right hand side of the track, hoping to force MacDowall into giving him the line into the first of the SEAT Curves unchallenged – MacDowall was not so generous.
The front bumper of the Cruze clipped Shedden just as he turned into the apex for the right hander that drops the hill. The touch was enough to send the Honda into a slide that looked destined for the gravel trap.
Behind, others were not so lucky.
John George span sideways on the exit of the first corner, flicking to the outside of the circuit, sending Andy Neate into a separate trip through verdant Scotland in avoidance. Somehow in the melee BTCC newcomer Jeff Smith wound up with one of the numerous Dunlop hoardings stuck around the rear wing of his Triple Eight Vectra.
The clear up of the accident forced the briefest of safety car periods around the 1.3 mile track but the restart caused Shedden no problems at the front of the field, MacDowall preoccupied with Matt Neal in third. Neal remained behind the Chevrolet for much of the race despite the best efforts of the double champion. He even took to flashing his headlight as the field took the green flag after a second safety car period – this one for another of the ubiquitous Dunlop banners left abandoned at the summit, if not apex, of the chicane.
Neal's podium charge came to an end in the final laps, Steven Kane showing off the BMW's strength at the end of the race to steal third, a welcome return to the podium having missed out at both the Snetterton and Silverstone weekends.
Pushed back to fourth Neal still gained points on both of the drivers who began the weekend ahead of his in the championship – Plato and Tom Onslow-Cole – who were both caught up in an epic battle through the middle and tail of the top ten.
Knockhill's ribbon of tarmac punishes anyone even vaguely off the racing line at the wrong moment, other drivers mugging the wayward in gangs whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Onslow-Cole was the victim of one such move – losing four places in less than a lap after trying to pass Plato at the chicane in the early laps, while Plato was ambushed by Kane and Tom Chilton, the latter forcing his way past Plato around the SEAT Curves, pushing the championship leader wide to complete the move.
The battle came to a head after the second safety car. Stuck inbetween the leaders, Jeff Smith inadvertently found himself holding up the angry swarm from Chilton in fifth back. Smith eventually found himself heaved wide by Paul O'Neill – partly using the black Vauxhall as a brake having cut Scotsman Corner to try and squeak past. Behind Rob Collard hit Onslow-Cole at the apex, the Ford turned sideways before coming back straight from a near irretrievable angle.
Conversely it was Collard who ended his race in the gravel trap, his West Surrey Racing BMW flicking off the track at the following corner.
Further chaos followed in the closing laps. Leading a train for four cars Onslow-Cole ran a fraction wide after the chicane. Mat Jackson, in typical Knockhill fashion needed no invitation, placing the nose of the Airwaves BMW up the inside, only for Onslow-Cole to move across, checking both their speeds and allowing Paul O'Neill to try and jump them around the outside of Clark's.
But, unsurprisingly, three into Clark's wouldn't go and it was Jackson who was spat out wide to bounce across the gravel before rejoining in eleventh.
Andrew Jordan, the fourth of the men in the train tried to snatch his chance, already past Jackson he tried to add O'Neill to his tally, though that move was scuppered when he ran onto the grass on the drag towards the hairpin.
There were no such problems for Shedden who remained unchallenged, as did MacDowall who claimed his best result of the year with a second. Chilton and Plato finished fifth and sixth ahead of the survivors of the battle, Onslow-Cole holding off O'Neill by 0.052 seconds while Jordan held ninth from Jackson by a comparatively huge 0.139 seconds after Jackson had snatched the final point back from Dave Pinkney, who briefly benefitted from the coming together at Clark's.