BTCC Rockingham Race 3: Shedden Takes Championship Lead With Victory

by Scott Mitchell

Gordon Shedden won a very wet final Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the day at Rockingham to take the lead of the championship heading into the final two rounds.

Matt Neal, who led for a while after passing erstwhile leader Aron Smith, made it a Honda Yuasa Racing one-two for the second race in succession, while Jason Plato took third.

Smith made a lightning getaway to take second from fourth on the grid as teammate Mat Jackson followed him into third. Smith then inherited the lead as poleman Adam Morgan spun his Speedworks Motorsport Toyota at Chapman, while Jackson’s time in second was short-lived as he ran wide on the exit of Pif-Paf.

Smith extended his lead to 1.8s from Neal and Plato, who passed Collard on the exit of the Brook chicane, but it was wiped out when Jeff Smith hit the wall on the exit of turn one hard. The Civic – rebuilt after a race one crash – lost it on entry and spun across the front of the recovering Morgan, causing a long safety car delay.

At the restart, Smith got the jump on the field as Shedden passed Rob Collard to take fourth, ahead of Andrew Jordan, Dave Newsham, Nick Foster, Frank Wrathall and Jackson, who was passed shortly after by namesake Ollie – impressing again in the AmD VW Golf.

Jordan made quick work of Collard to squeeze through at Gracelands, then Newsham took both at Tarzan before being re-passed by the Pirtek Racing Honda at Brook, both passes aided by minor contact.

At the front, Neal began to apply more pressure for the lead, the front four running almost nose-to-tail as Newsham and Howard Fuller ran straight on at Deene. Out of Tarzan Neal and Smith ran side-by-side and the Focus held on, but only for another lap as Neal got a better run through Gracelands and made it stick braking for the hairpin.

Shedden followed his teammate through shortly after, passing Smith through turn one, and two laps later Plato did the same, the older Focus struggling for traction out of the Brook chicane – as was Collard, who spun his BMW.

The exit of the chicane was proving important and Shedden proved that point by pulling alongside his teammate and into the lead – one he would not relinquish, leaving Neal to fight off the attentions of the MG.

Jordan was now on the back of Smith, hounding the Focus’ every move, and eventually made his way past into Gracelands. Wrathall, who had run strongly early on, began to struggle, dropping back on each lap and succumbing to the two Jacksons, then Onslow-Cole, and then Foster, Rob Austin, and Morgan, eventually finishing 12th.

At the front there was still time for Plato to try and make a move on Neal and he drew alongside the Civic on the exit of the Brook chicane, and the two champions ran side-by-side through the turn one banking, with Neal emerging victorious on the outside.

Plato could do no more, and what looked at the start of the day to be a perfect chance to gain serious points in the championship fight ended with him falling further behind, as Shedden’s win – his eighth of the season – moved him to the top of the table, three points clear of Neal.

Jordan’s pair of fourth places moved him further ahead in the fight for the Independents’ Trophy.

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