Rob Collard clinched victory in the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the 2015 season at Brands Hatch for West Surrey Racing.
The BMW man launched sensationally from fifth place on the grid to challenge for second place into the first corner, emerging at Druids second behind pole-sitter Andy Priaulx.
The 24-lapper was then decided by tyre degradation, as Priaulx’s softer compound rubber soon began to fade. The triple World Touring Car Champion then had a sluggish exit from Clearways on lap 14, allowing fellow WSR team-mate Collard to sneak inside heading down the main straight.
Priaulx slid wide at Paddock Hill Bend as the lead changed hands, allowing the BMR Racing duo of Aron Smith and Jason Plato to nip by into the podium positions.
Smith and Plato kept the leader honest in the remainder of the race around the Indy circuit, but it was not enough to stop Collard taking a ninth BTCC win of his career by 0.411s ahead of the BMR pair.
Jack Goff impressed on his Triple Eight debut, dispatching Priaulx’s BMW also on lap 16 at Paddock Hill to finish fourth ahead of reigning champion, Colin Turkington (BMR).
Gordon Shedden enjoyed a quiet race to sixth spot, ahead of Andrew Jordan who improved in the second Triple Eight MG6 GT from 10th on the grid. The second Honda Yuasa Racing Civic Type-R of Matt Neal was eighth, the top 10 rounded out by pole-sitter Priaulx and the Speedworks Toyota of Tom Ingram.
The latter was bumped aside at Druids by the Mercedes A-Class of Adam Morgan, but asserted his place back at Graham Hill Bend instantly.
Josh Cook was top rookie in 13th place for Power Maxed Racing, while his former Renault UK Clio Cup sparring partner Mike Bushell was 21st, the AmD Tuning man the next rookie in line.
Race two gets underway at 2:17pm and you can keep up with the action here at www.thecheckeredflag.co.uk, or via Twitter at @tcfBTCC.