Fabrizio Giovanardi maintained his lead in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship despite finding himself embroiled in the thick of the action at Knockhill.

The Italian went into the weekend looking to strengthen his challenge for a second straight BTCC title and qualified on the third row of the grid despite maximum ballast on his Vectra VXR.

The opening two races of the weekend saw Giovanardi 'chase the banana' - a reference made live on ITV to his quest to keep pace with the yellow SEAT of Jason Plato - and he took second place in both, although a double win for Plato saw him bring Giovanardi's advantage in the points down.

However, Giovanardi managed to bring his car to the flag in fifth place in race three while Plato was forced to retire, meaning the Italian heads to Silverstone 41 points clear in the title race.

"I have seen a lot of excitement today," he told Crash.net. "I tried to be calm which isn't easy for my character and avoid trouble as I have seen a lot of fighting in front of me and behind me. Oh my god, but I enjoyed it.

"In the end I am happy but in the second race I was trying to pass Jason because in the last three meetings, the SEAT has come strong. If you look at the numbers from here until the end of the season it could still be dangerous for me because five points, five points, five points and he catches me. I had to try to catch him but there was no way. I was better in the chassis and in the balance of the car but it wasn't as fast in a straight line so I had no possibility to try and pass."

Giovanardi's fifth place finish in the final race came despite contact on a number of occasions with the BMW Colin Turkington, including one incident as the pair ran side-by-side alongside the start/finish straight, and the defending champion said he felt some of the driving on track had gone a bit too far.

"To be honest, I had the contact with just one car; one orange car," he said. "Three times he hit me and I think he did a really bad manoeuvre as you can try to make an obstacle for other drivers but not push them out, because it could be dangerous - really dangerous.

"I am fighting for the championship so I don't want any trouble, but I don't think it was the right way."

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