BTCC Rockingham Race 3: Nash Fends Off Austin For First Victory

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James Nash leads Rob Austin (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

James Nash leads Rob Austin (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

James Nash became the latest first time BTCC winner, passing then holding off Rob Austin's Audi to win the reverse grid race at Rockingham.

Rob Austin got the best of the opening exchanges, though pole man Rob Collard got the best start as both he and Austin used their rear-wheel drive to pull away from the chasing pack around the first corner. By the braking point for Deene Austin had swapped lines to the inside for the hairpin, outbraking Collard, forcing the BMW driver aside.

Nash, after starting fifth, made it to third by the exit of Deene, which became second less than a lap latery with a move to the inside of Collard around the banked turn one. Nash waited two laps on the back bumper of the Audi before making his move on the fourth lap into at Deene.

Though Nash's move was a surprise, at least to Austin he was able to pull away from the NGTC car behind, putting well over a second between them as Austin looked to be falling back towards Rob Collard who had maintained third place ahead of Paul O'Neill.

However, from a 1.4 second peak on lap six Austin took advantage of Nash tyres having given their best and closed to within striking distance – two tenths of a second – with only a handful of laps to go.

Austin described his race and the battle for lead; “We knew if we got through the first lap clean we'd be quick and we could win it. I have to apologies to Rob Collard because I went a bit deep into the first corner, I just couldn't stop it. But I didn't expect Nash to come through but when he did I though 'it's fine he's front-wheel-drive, his tyres will go off'. After a lap I knew I could keep with him and I just sat there and sat there and sat there and his tyres went off and came back to me, but the gap just didn't open up. I needed one more lap.”

Though Nash, like Austin, was clearly elated with the result he warned off the result being a return to the early season form; “It's absolutely brilliant,” he began speaking to The Checkered Flag after the podium celebrations. “It's great for the team and it's a long time coming isn't it. It's just nice to lift the team morale as it's been hard and it's nice for the independents' championship. We needed to maximise [taking advantage of Jackson's poor results] and that race we actually did.”

However, he added; “We're still struggling, I think the weight difference and the different bits with Alan Gow sponsored cars have changed the grid slightly. We're still really struggling but it just worked out our way for the last race that was it.”

Collard held onto third after a battle with Paul O'Neill, the BMW driver retaking third on the final lap. Jason Plato took fastest lap and fifthplace from Jeff Smith around the outside of the Brook chicane to complete a solid points weekend. He now lies third in the overall points, 24 points down on Honda teammates Shedden and Neal, tied on 204 points.

To set up the tie Matt Neal claimed the five points on offer for sixth, passing Smith on the run to the finish line, beating the Vectra driver by just 0.028 seconds.

Like the two race before the bottom end of the top ten was dominated by a massive scrap, with the contact that comes with the BTCC. This race the group had started bottled up behind Nick Foster. He had comfortably outperformed WSR teammate Collard in the first two races but now appeared unable to match the pace of the cars ahead and with a train that included both Hondas, Plato, Frank Wrathall and Andrew Jordan coupling up to the rear end of the BMW.

Shedden, as the first man in line was the first man to try to pass Foster. However, while Shedden put his Honda ahead through Deene, Foster still had the overlap as the pair turned into Yentwood. The contact half-spun Shedden, dropping him initially from sixth to tenth, but he continued to fall down the order, ending the race a lowly 21st and very angry with Foster for the contact that damaged his car.

Gordon Shedden (Photo Credit: Chris Gurton Photography)

Despite a damaging clash with Nick Foster Shedden leaves Rockingham tied atop the points standings

The delay to Foster let Plato slip by and over the subsequent laps he was pushed down out of the top ten, Neal, Jordan, Wrathall and Tom Boardman got by to complete the top ten, the Special Tuning Racing had to survive a last lap attack from Foster, the SEAT and BMW making contact for almost the entire length of the School Straight

Mat Jackson ended his run of retirements but was unable to move his points total on from the post-Snetterton 159. He now lies a distant fourth in the overall points and second in the Independents' standings behind Nash.

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