Mat Jackson took advantage of a scuffle at the Donington Park chicane to take a first win of the British Touring Car Championship year, holding off Gordon Shedden in the closing laps.
The incident in question happened at the end of the fifth lap of the 16 lap encounter as pole man Jason Plato tried to reclaim the lead from Rob Collard. Plato moved past down the Dunlop Straight with Jackson's Redstone Racing Focus in tow. Under braking Jackson slid briefly, admitting he and Plato “swapped some stickers” with the MG running wide and bouncing over the kerbs.
“We got a great start,” said Jackson who went from sixth to third on lap one. “Obviously Rob was in front and I knew he was going to be quick in the BMW. It was all about the start really. With Jason into the chicane we swapped a few stickers and he went wide. It was good result for everybody at Redstone Racing.”
Jackson recovered to take the lead with the works Hondas of Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal also getting my the MG. Jackson and Shedden broke away from the ballasted duo of Neal and Plato, Plato harrying the defending champion through all the remaining laps.
Plato was alongside the Honda several times as he tried to take the final step on the podium, the pair side-by-side on the drop down the Craner Curves on the final lap, Neal swopping – fairly – across Plato's bow between the left hander down the hill and the right at the Old Hairpin.
Shedden, meanwhile, had brought Jackson's lead down from nearly a second to just a few car lengths.
“The NGTC cars has got bigger tyres,” Jackson reflected, “so it's a bit stronger at the end of the race but we for us, we had it under control.”
Tom Onslow-Cole was another benefit from the lap five incident, finishing fifth, but the big loser was his eBay Motors teammate Rob Collard.
From fifth on the grid Collard had made a titanic start to lead Plato into Redgate for the first time, leading by a whopping 1.6 seconds the first time back to the line. However, Plato – carrying maximum ballast as the championship leader starting the weekend – quickly caught the BMW after shaking off the early attentions of eventual winner Jackson.
Once Plato had caught the BMW the chasing pack – both works Hondas and Onslow-Cole joined the battle, setting up the pivotal moment at the chicane. While Plato bumped over the kerbs there was side-to-side contact between Collard, Plato and Jackson which damaged the steering on the BMW, leaving Collard to struggle with understeer for the rest of the race.
He sank down the other. Andrew Jordan – recovering from a very sideways moment at turn one, lap one – was sixth. Dave Newsham, Aron Smith and Frank Wrathall all passing an ailing Collard who had drifted back to tenth by the checkered flag.
Nick Foster and Daniel Welch were 11th and 12th, ahead of a three way battle between Adam Morgan, Jeff Smith and Tony Gilham for the final points paying position. The three swapped positions on the penultimate lap, Morgan passing Smith for 14th while trailing Gilham by just a few tenths.
The battle raged into the chicane for the final time, each leaving their braking as late as possible for the sake of a few extra points. Smith's Pirtek Racing Honda skittered through the gravel to emerge alongside Gilham's older Honda, Smith taking 13th at the line. Morgan, demoted back to 15th at the final corner banked a sole point to start his BTCC tally.
The race was completed without a safety car, though Lea Wood and Liam Griffin came together on lap one, damage – the front of the Vectra and the driver's door on the Focus – forcing both out. Rob Austin and Ollie Jackson both retired with engine problems, Austin reporting his Audi was 'down on power' after his team completed an engine change overnight.