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BTCC Knockhill Race 1: Tom Chilton Dominates Weekend Opener

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Tom Chilton took advantage of the improved pace from his Team Aon Ford Focus to score the car's first win in dominant fashion in the first race of the day at Knockhill.

Starting from pole position, Chilton quickly built a lead over second-placed Matt Neal in the opening stages. His advantage was removed by a safety car period in the middle of the race, but again built up a comfortable lead after the restart, winning the race by six seconds.

The victory was his first of the 2011 season and the first for the new “Global” Ford Focus. It was in-fact the car's best result since Chilton finished third on its debut at Brands Hatch in the first race of the season.

While Chilton was never threatened up front, there were fierce battles up and down the field behind him.

The story of qualifying had been how the NGTC duo of Frank Wrathall and Rob Austin had qualified on the second row of the grid. At the start of the race, Austin used the rear-wheel drive of his Audi A4 to good effect to get a better launch than Wrathall and beat the Toyota driver into Turn 1.

Wrathall then came under attack from local star Gordon Shedden, who dived down the inside of him a couple of corners later. There was contact between the pair as Wrathall turned into the corner, which pitched the BTCC rookie sideways. Further contact from Shedden put Wrathall pointing back in the right direction, but Honda driver took the position.

Shedden found a way past Austin for third on the following lap, and the Audi driver was then passed by Wrathall at the hairpin. Championship leader Mat Jackson also found his way through past Austin, who then came under attack from the second Aon Focus of Tom Onslow-Cole. There was contact between the two of them as they fought side-by-side, which spun Austin off into the barriers. Onslow-Cole speared off onto the grass and sustained heavy damage to his car in contact with the barrier.

The incident brought the safety car out, and after the restart Shedden tried to find a way past Neal but would have to settle for third behind his teammate. Further behind Rob Collard attacked Jason Plato for sixth, which resulted in Plato running off the track and dropping two places to Collard and James Nash. Collard then caught Jackson at the same point and contact was made. Jackson sustained a puncture that prevented him from slowing the car down at the hairpin, sending him into the gravel. Although he got out again he finished a lap down after a trip to the pits, costing him his championship lead. The Honda duo of Neal and Shedden are now tied for the championship lead.

Wrathall followed the Hondas across the line in fourth, ahead of Collard, Nash and Plato. Tom Boardman was eighth in his Special Tuning SEAT, ahead of Andrew Jordan in the Pirtek Vauxhall. Aron Smith picked up the final point in tenth in his first BTCC race in the second 888 Vectra.

Click here for race results

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Peter joined the TCF team in September 2010 and covers GP2 and GP3 along with WTCC and Formula Two. You can find him on twitter at @PeteAllen_
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