Silverstone BTCC Race One: Fords Carry On Regardless

Despite the restrictions added overnight the pair of Team Aon Ford Focuses took a dominant 1-2 finish in the first British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) race at Silverstone.

Echoed by a chorus of complaints the two LPG powered cars had annexed the front row of the grid – Onslow-Cole leading his fellow Tom – Chilton – and their place at the head of the field remained unchallenged throughout a 22 lap race.

The only change for the lead came on the pit straight on lap 12, when Onslow-Cole, who had converted pole into the lead on the first lap, moved aside to allow Chilton through. Whether the move was made for speed or financial purposes constant could be discussed at length (perhaps replacing the dirge of moans about the Ford's perceived advantage) but Onlsow-Cole's move to the right hand side of the track was enough for Chilton to take the lead.

The move could have back fired on the Arena Motorsport backed squad as Onslow-Cole found himself immediately under pressure from Jason Plato for second, the championship leader followed by his Silverline Chevrolet teammate Alex MacDowall.

Despite the bow tie pairing in his rear view mirrors Onslow-Cole caught Chilton – arguably scotching the argument the swap was made for speed related reasons – but Plato fell away, the pressure applied by MacDowall enough to distract Plato from the Fords, or at least to reassure him that third place was good for his championship aspirations, especially with his rival Matt Neal battling hard further back in the points.

Andrew Jordan finished fifth, a position he had held since the first corner of the race, though he only briefly looked like his NGTC powered Vectra had the pace to challenge the Chevrolets ahead. The top five had at one been covered by only two seconds, but by the checkered flag had spread to nearly double that – Plato 2.6 seconds behind Onslow-Cole who was just under three-tenths behind his teammate at the end of the race.

Jordan had inherited fifth with Neal had run wide – onto the concrete run off – at Copse on the first lap, dropping the Honda driver to seventh at the end of the first lap. That trip the long way around Copse – the first of many as several drivers opted to widen the corner on various occasions – was the beginning of an eventful day for Neal fighting with the Airwaves BMW or Mat Jackson and Steven Kane.

Kane appeared to have passed Neal at Brooklands on lap eight, only for the veteran driver to employ typical tin-top tactics to force the Ulsterman wide at Luffield. Kane dispatched (for the time being) Jackson seized the opportunity to challenge Neal, the two running side by side past the pits before both (and Kane) employed the run off at Copse.

Jackson and Neal were still fighting on the way to the hairpin at Becketts to swing onto the National Straight, and with neither man ever likely to give way easily there was only one way the fight was likely to be decided.

Both went wide at Becketts.

Neal, with an enormous lock up managed to stay on track, though Kane was able to nip past. Jackson, however, bounced over the grass, dropping to 12th.

Jackson's slip allowed Dave Pinkney into tenth, but all too briefly, the car stuttering almost as he past Jackson, the NGTC engine apparently having switched itself to 'limp home' mode, emploring Pinkney to do just that, becoming the race's only retirement.

Pinkney's demise meant another Vectra – the Triple Eight car of James Nash – into tenth, though Nash too would lose the place to a recovering Gordon Shedden who had dropped unseen from tenth of the grid to nineteenth on the opening lap.

Rob Collard finished sixth nearly seven seconds behind the race leader, having held off Paul O'Neill for most the race. The backed driver finished seventh, ahead of Matt Neal, who eventually made it by Kane on the penultimate lap – the move ironically coming after Kane had run wide unassisted at Luffield after several more of Neal's more percussive moves had failed to dislodge the BMW.

On the final lap Shedden tried to continue the Honda/BMW battle with more contact with Kane at Becketts as he tried to double his points haul from the race.

1. No.23 Tom Chilton – 22 laps in 22:35.870
2. No.21 Tom Onslow-Cole – +0.282
3. No.2 Jason Plato – +2.895
4. No.20 Alex MacDowall – +3.071
5. No.77 Andrew Jordan – +3.764
6. No.6 Rob Collard – +6.473
7. No.29 Paul O'Neill – +7.598
8. No.4 Matt Neal – +8.773
9. No.11 Steven Kane – +9.936
10. No.52 Gordon Shedden – +10.386