James Cole secured a lights-to-flag maiden British Touring Car Championship victory in the opening race at Rockingham, converting his unexpected pole position into a victory margin of 2.5 seconds over his Subaru team-mate Ashley Sutton by the finish.
Before the race began, one of Cole’s main rivals for victory was taken out of contention, as third-placed qualifier Tom Ingram suffered a brake failure on his Toyota Avensis which forced him to pit and retire during the formation lap.
Cole used the rear-wheel drive of his Subaru Levorg to good effect at the start, pulling away off the line to reach the Deene hairpin still leading the race. Only a lap later, fellow front-row starter Jack Goff put Cole under pressure, trying unsuccessfully to squeeze past through the inside of Gracelands.
As the race wore on, so too did the tyres of Goff’s front-wheel drive Honda Civic, with Sutton right behind exerting continuous pressure in the closing laps. Goff held on until the final lap, running wide at the Tarzan hairpin and allowing Sutton to sneak past down the inside with only three corners of the race left.
Josh Cook finished at the tail of the podium train in fourth, clinging to the rear bumper of Sutton for much of the race but unable to challenge for the podium. Matt Neal rounded out the top five, passing the heavily ballast-laden Colin Turkington at the midway point.
The Northern Irishman had initially jumped up to third at the first corner, taking advantage of the extra traction afforded by the rear-wheel drive BMW, but Turkington could not overcome his weight disadvantage and slipped to sixth by the finish.
The battle for seventh was a combative one, with Adam Morgan running off the road while battling Neal and Mat Jackson on the opening lap and dropping back. Jackson pushed on to finish in seventh, but Morgan mounted a comeback from his disappointing first lap, passing Tom Chilton – the lead competitor on the harder compound tyre – a few laps later on his way to eighth place.
Chilton struggled for pace on the harder tyre, falling behind the Subaru pair of Josh Price and Jason Plato in the closing laps to finish just outside the points in eleventh.
Championship contenders Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard suffered disappointing races from their 16th and 20th grid positions respectively. Shedden picked up a front-right puncture at the Deene hairpin two thirds of the way through the race, dropping a lap down and finishing 30th. Collard made little progress from his grid position, passing Rob Austin for 19th early on but only climbing to 17th by the finish.
[table id=2398 /]