BTCC Silverstone Race 3: Chilton Wins, Neal Wraps Up Third Title

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Tom Chilton (Photo Credit: Jon Hobley)

Tom Chilton (Photo Credit: Jon Hobley)

Tom Chilton took a comfortable win to close the 2011 British Touring Car Championship, while behind the title battle was resolved in favour of Matt Neal after a tense race that had he and rival/teammate nose to tail.

Chilton took full advantage of the reverse grid, taking the lead into Copse after pole-sitter Alex MacDowall made a slow getaway that tempted Jason Plato to try and slide into the lead between the front row pair. Plato's dive for the lead came up short and he settled into second behind the Aon Focus. MacDowall ended the first lap third but was passed by Tom Boardman on the second lap, the SEAT driver installing himself on the final step of a race podium that remained static throughout the rest of the race.

Plato remained close behind Chilton – roughly half a second the gap for the first 19 of the 22 laps before he fell back, allowing Chilton to take the checkered flag 1.4 seconds to the good.

Perhaps the lack of overtaking at the front was a good thing as the title battle was to be found in the nose-to-tail midfield. Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden had been given starting slots at the bottom of the top ten and in heavily ballasted Honda Civics – and understandingly cautious – neither driver was able to move up the order, only gaining a place in the opening laps due to the retirement of Dave Newsham due to contact and a damaged left rear corner on the yellow SEAT.

The two Hondas were split by less than half a second, but Shedden was unable to bridge the final gap he needed to before he mount any attack on Neal, let alone one that didn't risk taking out both men.

With the two Civics in lock step Rob Austin was able to catch the pair in his Audi. He slid up the inside of Shedden at Becketts to briefly put a concrete element of separation between the two title rivals. However, a lap later he was able to pass Neal, who no doubt had the cautious approach in mind seeing a faster car looming in his mirrors.

Austin's charge – showing the pace of the NGTC Audi again after struggling at Brands Hatch – also led him past Tom Onslow-Cole to claim sixth place on the penultimate lap behind Andrew Jordan, who completed a quiet hat-trick of top ten results on the final weekend for the Pirtek Vectra.

Shedden was again presented with the rear of the sister Civic, but was still unable to do anything to pass his teammate, let alone begin to put the places between them necessary for him to win the title. In fact, when the checkered flag fell it did so with Frank Wrathall between the two Hondas, the Dynojet driver having grabbed ninth place from Shedden at Luffield on the final lap.

The end of term feeling, typified by over-exuberant driving was lacking from an encounter that played out more like a tense thriller than action adventure. Only James Nash and Mat Jackson – who both entered the weekend with title aspirations – provided the sort of contact that has made highlight reels of so many BTCC finales.

Jackson bumped Nash wide Brooklands to take tenth on track, only for the newly crowned Independents' champion to replay with a shove in the rear bumper under braking for Luffield. Nash took the place but was given a drive through penalty that ruled him out of challenging for the points. He ended the race in 17th. Another casualty of the race – aside from Jackson who had to pit for the Airwaves Racing team to attend to the damage from the clash – a flapping bonnet the most concerning, was Daniel Welch.

Having scored the first points for the team in race two he held station in the back of the top ten for the first lap before being pushed off at Becketts and dropping to 22nd. From there the Proton driver mounted the kind of NGTC powered comeback that has become Rob Austin's domain in the second half of the season, coming back to 14th place.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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