At the half way point of the season, it couldn't have been much closer at the top of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship standings.
Having endured a difficult start to the season at Brands Hatch, Fabrizio Giovanardi
and VX Racing had worked hard to reel in SEAT's Jason Plato
at the top of the standings and heading to round six at Donington Park, it was the Italian who had overcome a 24 point deficit to lead by a single point. In the Independents' standings, it wasn't quite as close – but only 28 points covered leader Mike Jordan
to fourth placed Tom Onslow-Cole.
Hitting the track at Donington, it was the ever-improving Team Halfords Honda Civics that proved to be the cars to beat on qualifying day, with the bright orange cars leading every session and Gordon Shedden
taking pole for the second meeting in succession. However, title rivals Plato and Giovanardi were in the wars – with Plato down in ninth place and Giovanardi only 15th after an engine problem with his Vectra.
Race day dawned with heavy rain falling and it led to tricky conditions for the opening race, which went the way of Shedden after he quickly re-passed the quick-starting Mat Jackson
at the start. Podium places went the way of Adam Jones
and Matt Neal
– despite the champion having to pit to replace a puncture – while Plato moved back into the lead of the standings with a fifth place finish compared to eighth for Giovanardi.
Plato further strengthened his position in the second race as he took a storming victory after a delay to the programme because of the heavy rain. From fifth on the grid, the SEAT man carved his way up the order to take the lead from Shedden and pull away for a fifth victory of the campaign. With Giovanardi in third, Plato's lead grew still further heading into the final race of the weekend.
Despite starting ninth on the grid thanks to the reverse grid rules, Plato showed his wet weather prowess to take a second win of the day and one he admitted could be crucial to the championship outcome after Giovanardi failed to score after running off the track on standing water – meaning the Italian dropped to 25 points off the lead. Neal and Jordan completed the podium in the race, but it was clear that the Donington Park weekend had left Giovanardi with work to do once again.
From Donington, the field headed to Snetterton for round seven of the season, and Giovanardi quickly set about reducing Plato's lead when he qualified fifth on the grid – but three places ahead of his SEAT rival.
Pole went to Colin Turkington's BMW ahead of team-mate Tom Onslow-Cole
and it was the Northern Irishman who took victory after fending off the challenge of Onslow-Cole and then Gordon Shedden
– before being excluded from the results for being underweight. It meant Shedden took victory ahead of Onslow-Cole and Tom Chilton. A poor start had seen Giovanardi passed by Plato off the line but the SEAT man was then tagged by Matt Neal
at the first corner and dropped down to 17th place. Although he would battle back to finish ninth, it was behind Giovanardi who took sixth having also lost time in the same incident.
Despite two Safety Car periods – one after a hefty start-line shunt involving Chris Stockton
and Fiona Leggate – Giovanardi managed to secure a vital win in the second race ahead of Neal and Plato, although the SEAT driver could have been higher had it not been for an incident with Tom Chilton
while going for position earlier in the race that had cost him valuable time.