Mat Jackson became the first repeat winner of the 2012 British Touring Car Championship by wrapping up the day at Donington Park with a victory to leave the Midlands circuit leading the championship, thanks to his number of wins.
Jackson took the lead from Dave Newsham at the end of a chaotic first three laps. Jeff Smith – handed pole position by the random draw to reverse grid draw – got a slow start allowing Jackson and Andrew Jordan to lead towards turn one but Newsham pounced down the Craner Curves, passing Jackson after Jordan half spun through Redgate.
Newsham led Collard – the rapid starting BMW (and the lap one shenanigans) helping Collard to climb from eighth in the opening lap – and Jackson at the end of lap one while Aron Smith searched for a way past Andy Neate fought down the front straight. Neate forced Smith onto the grass before contact sent the MG spinning into the concrete wall on drivers' right down the pit straight, severely damaging the suspension on the MG KX Momentum racer.
More contact followed – further up the field – on lap three. Collard shimmied wide at the Old Hairpin, bouncing over the grass before coming back on track in front of Tom Onslow-Cole, who was forced to slow to avoid wiping out his BMW stablemate. Matt Neal, behind hit the rear of Onslow-Cole's charge, sending him on his own bounce across the grass on the outside of Schwantz Curve.
Behind Neal Tony Gilham and Andrew Jordan saw their opportunity and darted for the inside. Gilham got through, but the Neal closed the door on the Pirtek backed driver, the resultant contact sending them both spinning towards McLeans. Jordan – somehow – straightened his Honda out, but Neal nosed into the gravel on the outside of the corner, prompting a safety car.
Meanwhile Jackson had quietly taken the lead, while the carnage ahead had helped Jason Plato creep into the top ten in the startlingly fast MG6.
Unleashed from behind the safety car Plato's progress up the field was relentless. Jeff Smith, Frank Wrathall, Andrew Jordan, Tony Gilham, Dave Newsham and finally Rob Collard after the BMW driver had slipped wide at the Old Hairpin once more. Plato was third with four laps of the race – extended by the safety car – still run.
He hoovered up the one second of empty road between he and second placed Gordon Shedden in a single lap, forcing the Honda driver to go defensive to maintain his second place, climbing the kerbs at Coppice to try and keep Plato from gaining a run into the chicane.
Despite the battling the pair were still closing on a fading Jackson and the three men started the final lap split by just seven-tenths.
For three quarters of the final lap it was anyone's race before Jackson broke away on Dunlop Straight for the final time as Shedden and Plato ran nose to tail on the inside line. Pessimistically speaking what happened next was telegraphed from the moment Plato opted to follow Shedden, rather than pull onto the traditional racing line. The change to result put Plato from a clear points lead into a tie with Jackson, the Redstone Racing driven taking the championship lead on the tie break of number of wins.
Contact sent Shedden wide and through the gravel. Plato also took the gravel, but less so, allowing him to jump ahead of Shedden by the time the Scot was back on the track. Plato crossed the line ahead, but a post-race two second penalty demoted him back to third – his only punishment for the contact.
After passing Rob Collard on the final Tony Gilham – in Shedden's old Civic was a fantastic fourth – his best BTCC result to date almost forgotten behind the podium battle. After Dave Newsham had retired just two laps from home the Pirtek Racing duo finished behind Collard in sixth and seventh. Frank Wrathall was eighth ahead of Dan Welch – another man to take the best result of his BTCC career out of the chaos.
Tom Onslow-Cole, Lea Wood, Aron Smith, Nick Foster, Chris James and Liam Griffin completed the points positions, James and Griffin surviving more contact on the opening lap after their race two coming together.