Aron Smith claimed a fine maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship victory for Team BKR in a hotly-contested final race at Rockingham.
The Volkswagen CC driver started the reverse grid race from pole position, holding off the close attentions of Gordon Shedden and Colin Turkington in the closing stages of a race interrupted three times by the safety car.
The final 18-lap race from the Corby circuit was first brought under safety car conditions after just one lap, Jack Goff retiring after contact from Smith’s Volkswagen team-mate, Mark Howard.
Smith opened out a lead of almost three seconds over Matt Neal‘s Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type-R on the restart, the latter wearing the harder Dunlop rubber while team-mate Shedden began a charge on the medium tyre compound.
The Scot made his way by Andrew Jordan‘s Ford Focus for fifth place, before rounding the Triple Eight MG6 of Ashley Sutton decisively at Deene hairpin on lap five for fourth.
A clean pass on Mat Jackson‘s Motorbase Performance Ford Focus followed for third, which swiftly became second when Neal allowed his Honda team-mate to progress into second before the safety car returned after Dave Newsham‘s Chevrolet Cruze ended in the Tarzan gravel trap, following contact from Sutton’s MG.
His lead wiped out, Smith evaded significant pressure from Shedden’s Honda, but it was Turkington that was the man now making progress.
Scything through the pack, the Northern Irishman fought his way to sixth place before dispatching Rob Collard‘s BMW and Jackson’s Ford in quick succession on lap 13. Having moved by Neal’s Honda for third at Deene, a safety car to remove Warren Scott‘s striken Subaru Levorg gave his team-mate a chance to challenge the leaders.
Smith began the three-lap dash for the flag, holding on for his first win of the season and the first for Team BKR, ahead of Shedden Turkington, Neal and Jackson.
Collard was next up ahead of Adam Morgan and the impressive Jake Hill, eighth for Team HARD while the top 10 was rounded out by Aiden Moffat and Jason Plato.
Tom Ingram charged up into the top 10 having started 28th on the grid, but right-rear damage caused an unfortunate early retirement for the Toyota driver.
Sam Tordoff holds a five-point lead now over Neal after only managing 16th on the harder tyre, the series next heading to Silverstone on 17/18 September.