Sunday eve - Gio leads the way

And so the opening weekend draws to a close, with a familiar look at the top of the standings. Giovanardi leads the way from Jackson while Plato isn't that far behind considering SEAT has plenty still to do with the diesel.

Its not surprise to see Vauxhall leading the manufacturers standings and the teams' title race, but the BMW Dealer Team is showing strong - despite the disadvantage of only having one car compared to two for the other leading teams.

Jackson leads the Indy standings with his team proudly top of the pile - and the full standings can be found if you simply CLICK HERE.

Sunday eve - Sandbagging? What sandbagging?

SEAT proved to be on the pace from the outset as the Leon TDi hit the BTCC track for the first time, leading to the expected comments about the team having 'sand-bagged' during pre-season testing.

However, while it may have happened before, the team insisted it wasn't the case this time around.

"Prior to this weekend we'd done 120 mile and we read all the crap in the press about SEAT sandbagging - and we weren't," Jason Plato said at the end of the day. "It's frustrating to hear that as the guys are working hard here and we've made progress this weekend. We just haven't found the sweet spot in the car yet

"We'll be more competitive as the season goes on, so if we can get two thirds and a fifth here, what can we get later in the year? We need to unlock that secret gem in the car. We don't know where it is but we are getting closer - we just haven't found it."

Sunday eve - Tom debuts with a bang

Tom Onslow-Cole walked away unscathed from his big shunt in the final race of the weekend, although the same couldn't be said for his car as the team continued to collect broken bits of Vectra from the side of the Cooper Straight.

For Tom, it was a simple case of wrong place, wrong time when Gordon Shedden was turned into the side of him and it was a tough end to a debut race day with the Vauxhall team that had been going well.

"I haven't seen it played back yet but all I know is that I came out of Graham Hill Bend on the racing line with Shedden on my inside, and the next thing I knew I was aiming at the wall," he said. "There isn't much run off so there wasn't time to do anything. I just kept my foot buried and put some lock on but it wasn't enough.

"It was a big hit; I think the data showed it was about 14g. The car doesn't look too pretty but I'm a walking testament to the safety of the Vectra - it's a strong car!"

Sunday pm - An unexpected winner?

Mat Jackson enjoyed a fine run to second place in the final race of the weekend, behind fellow BMW racer Colin Turkington.

Of course, both of those drivers run for Independent teams leaving the paddock somewhat confused when Alan Hyde welcomed the Independent winner Mat Jackson onto the podium - cue some head-scratching before the mistake was realised, followed a hasty apology to the actual victor.

Sunday pm - Kane sidelined

Steven Kane is now a spectator for the final race at Brands Hatch after Motorbase were unable to repair his car for race three following his shunt in race two.

"I was so slow out of Clearways after Colin came past me and I don't see why Jordan hit me," he said. "I knew he was there and I was onto the straight and actually moving away from the wall. If I'd been where I wanted to be on the track, it would have been a much bigger shunt."

At that point, the Northern Irishman had hoped to get on track, but it wasn't to be.

As for Mike Jordan's view of the incident - well, there was little surprise that it was different.

"Colin gave him a little run and it slowed Steven down, so I was able to get up the inside," he said. "I'd say I was half-way alongside him and he kept squeezing me. There was no more room for me to go anywhere and eventually we made contact. I'm sure he'll see if differently but I couldn't have gone anywhere else."

Our verdict - racing incident.

Sunday pm - Explaining the smoke screen

Darren Turner gave the press room something to discuss on the grid for race two as his SEAT Leon TDi sat on the grid belching out smoke from the rear.

Cause for concern? Well not really, more a driver with a heavy right foot...

"It's just caused by the particle filter thats fitted to the diesel," a SEAT source revealed. "Darren's like a little kid who sits there revving the car, which is why his car did it and Jason's didn't!"

Sunday pm - Pole for Jordan

The 'wheel of fortune' is no more - so welcome to the BTCC bingo game, which will now be used to decide who starts on pole for the final race of the weekend.

This time around, 'Old Man' Jordan was the man to benefit after his ninth place finish in race two and will start race three from pole.

Quite what Steven Kane will think of that having been put into the pitwall by the John Guest Racing man remains to be seen...

Saturday lunch - Celeb spotting

Murray Walker was amongst the 'celebrities' who came along to watch the racing action at Brands Hatch, with the man who for many years was the voice of the BTCC an interested spectator on the grid as the cars lined up for the start of race two.

"I saw that first season of the BTCC when Jack Sears won the title here back in 1958," he said. "Of course I commentated on the BTCC for the BBC for a number of years so the series has a special place in my heart.

"The whole thing is going back to where it used to be and it's thanks to the work that Alan Gow and his team are putting in."

Saturday lunch - Stockton calls it a day

A retirement in race one has proved to be the end of the weekend for Chris Stockton - with the engine having cried enough on his BTC Racing Lexus.

Both cars failed to finish the first race of the weekend after mechanical issues and while Stuart Oliver will be back out for race two, Stockton will be watching from the sidelines.

"We've dropped a valve we think and that's it for us," he said. "I said we weren't going to come here with ?35,000 of spares in case we had a problem and would just take it back and sort it out instead, so that's what we'll do.

"I'm not sure what caused it, but I might have buzzed the engine when I went into the gravel in qualifying while I was trying to slow the car down by dropping through the gears. The team said the telemetry doesn't show that, but that's what I think."

Saturday lunch - Kane canes them

Steven Kane showed no prisoners in his first BTCC start, showing former champ Matt Neal he wasn't going to let reputations get in the way of the fight for points in his debut season.

"We drove our own race but I had a fast car," he said. "I didn't want to go out there and do anything stupid so the aim was to get to the finish and get some points.

"We changed a lot from testing and it was a bit of a gamble - but it worked. We are on the pace despite being 30 kilos heavier than the other BMWs (due to the sequential gearbox) so I'm a happy man."

Sunday lunch - It was my line...

The conditions may have worked against Mat Jackson in race one, but his cause wasn't helped when he was held up by traffic while trying to lap back-markers.

On one occasion, he made contact with Alan Taylor's Honda Integra - although it wasn't the first time the Robertshaw man had endured an incident at Graham Hill...

"I had a great start and made up five places in the first two laps," he said, "then it all went a bit crap! The car got out of shape at Graham Hill Bend and I collected Martyn Bell then later in the race Mat Jackson came up behind me. He was quicker than me and wanted the racing line, but I was on the racing line and left him room on the inside. It was a little ungentlemanly for him to hit me but there you go."

At least Jackson was able to continue after his coming together with the Integra - the same couldn't be said for Bell's Astra which was forced out after just two laps.

"I was cautious at the start, but then Alan went off and collected me as he came back on," he said. "It was just unlucky really and a bit of a shame as we had decent race pace sorted."

Sunday am - Time for a change?

In World Touring Cars, fast laps set under yellow flag conditions don't count in practice and qualifying - but that wasn't the case in yesterday's qualifying session.

In fact, both Mat Jackson and Fabrizio Giovanardi posted their quickest times while Michael Doyle was parked in the Paddock Hill gravel trap and it was something noted by one of the drivers who lost out as lap-times tumbled late in the session.

"It was going really well until those last laps," Team Halfords Tom Chilton - who will start the first race in under an hour - from ninth place said. "We were quick all the time and near the front, but then when we came in to get new fronts on, the red flag came out.

"There was a yellow before that where people went faster so I'm a bit upset with that to be honest. With where that car was and the yellow flags being out, I feel those times shouldn't have been allowed. They wouldn't have counted in the WTCC which makes me a bit cross.

"But the race will be exciting from ninth on the grid. The team has worked hard to give me a good car and the little Civic is fantastic."

Ninth on the grid doesn't mean Tom is out of it though - see below.

Sunday am - Keep an eye on orange

Team Halfords may have qualified lower than hoped for today's three races, but that doesn't mean Gordon Shedden and Tom Chilton should be discounted for honours.

Indeed, commentator Ben Edwards - a man many believe would do a good job when F1 returns to the BBC - thinks the orange Civics could be ones to watch when racing gets underway.

"It's easy to say Jackson will do the job today now he is on pole," he said, "although I'd have said he would do well anyway. However the Halfords cars are ones to watch; they are lower down the grid than they should have been and Shedden and Chilton will run well in the races."

Sunday am - That's the way to do it

The latest addition to the BTCC support package showed the big boys how it's done on Saturday afternoon with the first round of the Ginetta Junior Championship becoming an early contender for the race of the season.

Although most of the field are too young to even drive on the roads, the race itself proved to be compelling viewing with Dominic Pettit leading the way from Dino Zamparelli going into the final lap.

Into Clearways for the final time though, Zamparelli saw his chance to go for the win and grabbed it with both hands. Moving to the inside of Pettit, the pair then ran side-by-side all the way to the chequer with Zamparelli taking a literal photo-finish by the narrowest of margins - just 0.025secs ahead.

"I was in sixth place early on and losing pace so I thought to myself I have to try and make up some places," said the round one victor. "I managed to pick people off one by one and when I got into second I thought I had a good chance of winning the race.

"My pit board said there were three laps to go when actually there were only two so on what turned out to be the last lap, I went up the inside of Dominic - he gave me space which was nice - but then I could see he was coming back at me. I just put my foot down and we ran side by side to the line. It was such a good race, I'm so happy to win."

Now can the BTCC brigade provide the same fun later today?


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