Mat Jackson chalked up a second victory of the season, making the most of a good start and contact between the front row starters to win the first race of the day at a sodden Thruxton circuit. Jackson was spared a potential restart after a safety car for teammate Liam Griffin when the race was red flagged after the recovery truck became stuck.
Dave Newsham also benefitted from the contact between Andrew Jordan and Jason Plato at Allard on the first lap, finding a gap to pass the pair, as Jordan spun into retirement to the inside and Plato ran wide onto the grass, undoing his own good start.
“We got past Jason,” said Newsham.”He was on the grass and obviously lost drive and there was gap just for me to slot down, I think between Rob Collard and Jason and I managed to get round the outside of Rob into the right hander got back on line for the left hander and then did Frank on the way out of the complex.”
Plato crossed the line fifth at the end of the opening lap, trailing Jackson, Newsham, Frank Wrathall and Rob Collard. Wrathall, maintaining position after starting on the inside of the second row, and Collard had a significant advantage over Plato in the early laps, but when Wrathall lost the position to Collard after running wide at Church the championship leader was almost immediately able to demote the Avensis driver to fifth making his move through the Campbell-Cobb-Segrave complex.
Two laps after taking third from Wrathall Plato moved into third, putting the superior grip of the NGTC cars – afforded wider tyres than their S2000 counterparts by the regulations – to drive by Collard at Church.
Honda Yuasa Racing pairing Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal were also putting their works machinery and wider tyres to good use as they waded through the pack and into the top ten. Shedden had dropped back behind Neal on the opening lap after contact with Rob Austin, then Andy Neate left his car with no rear bumper and an MG sized dent in the left side doors, but despite this he remained the faster of the pair, passing Neal on lap five on his way to the top ten.
Despite the damage Shedden appeared unstoppable as he made his way to sixth place, passing Tony Gilham, Lea Wood, Tom Onslow-Cole and finally Aron Smith.
Griffin's crash came as he started his tenth lap. The Redstone Racing driver strayed too far to the left of the track into the standing water at the side of the track, aquaplaning straight on, at speed, into the tyre wall, the impact severe enough to left the rear tyres off the ground as the front end was destroyed against the wall.
The safety car was called out to enable safe recovery of the focus from the outside of the track. The race would have been restarted, the lights on the safety car going out and Jackson preparing to restart by backing the back up as he rounded Church. However, the recover truck that had retrieved Griffin's car now required recovery itself – that duration of that recovery bringing out the red flag, before the checkered flag brought proceedings to a premature, but not entirely unwelcome end in the conditions.
“When the safety car came out it was nightmare,” Newsham told The Checkered Flag. “We were going to get caught and really have to push in that weather and there was going to be an accident, but thankfully they pulled out the red flags. We're all aquaplaning – I couldn't wait for it to be over.
A restart, almost certainly would have played into the hands of Plato and Shedden in their NGTC cars, their apparent advantage something Jackson is aware of as he now starts the second race of the day from pole position.
“It's huge,” said Jackson. “They have four extra inches of rubber on the road and you don't have to be Einstein to understand what that gives you. Ultimately, yes, I think it's going in their favour. All we can do is exactly what we've done here. We need to capitalise on results and take points and do the best we can do.”
He continued; “we know we're marginal on tyres so it was really a matter of keeping control of the tyre life because if the race was going to carry on we needed all the tyres we could get. We managed the pace and when the safety car came out – I think it was Liam who was the first victim which is unfortunate – the conditions have deteriorated with the standing water and bearing in mind Thruxton's so hard on tyres we haven't got much tread left on them, so we're almost onto slick tyres in conditions like that.”
Matt Neal ended his own climb up the order from his lowly qualifying slot in ninth, with Gilham completing the top ten in his year old Civic.
Ollie Jackson, Jeff Smith, Nick Foster and Chris James completed the points scorers. With only 16 classified finishers – Speedworks duo Adam Morgan and Tony Hughes struggling after separate offs, Rob Austin pitting after just two laps – Andy Neate was the odd man out, taking now points after finishing 16th, battling an ill handling MG caused by his role in Shedden’s shunt.