The gap between Fabrizio Giovanardi
and Jason Plato
is down to just five points following the first of the three races at the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship Grand Finale at Thruxton, the duo finishing first and second after surviving a myriad of detrimental tyre problems for their rivals.
A largely processional race until the final stages, the end result was a pale reflection of what had been expected with only a couple of laps remaining when several drivers fell by the wayside due to punctures brought on by the stress of the high-speed Hampshire circuit.
Most importantly for the title though, Giovanardi and Plato were unaffected by the actions going on around them to finish almost line astern in first and second, the consequence of which sees the margin slightly reduced and the two alongside each other on the grid for the second race.
From the off, Vauxhall easily settled into the 1-2-3 positions they had assumed on the grid, Tom Chilton, Giovanardi and Alain Menu in tandem through Campbell. Plato eventually followed behind after a side-by-side tussle with sparring partner Matt Neal
through the Complex, eventually emerging out the other side ahead.
Neal lost out though, dropping behind Colin Turkington
by Noble and then slipping to seventh when Darren Turner
also found his way past the Team Halfords Honda Civic.
A bit of inevitable team manoeuvring saw Giovanardi in the lead of the race by the end of the third lap after slipping past Chilton on the run up to the Club Chicane. Plato meanwhile was trying to chase Menu down in front having shaken off the attentions of Turkington.
Turkington himself was however under intense pressure from Turner, who finally made a move stick at the end of the fifth lap at Club, the SEAT clambering over the kerbs but keeping the Team RAC car behind him. However, the unorthodox line delayed Turkington enough to have the two Halfords Hondas swarming over the back of his BMW, with Gordon Shedden
squeezing through, followed by Neal, albeit only after a bit of door bashing up to Campbell and around Seagrave.
Just behind, an exciting tussle between Mike Jordan, Mat Jackson
and Matt Allison
was unfolding, with Jackson hauling himself up to ninth initially before the Intergra surged back through at Club.
However, Jordan's charge was over by lap nine when he suffered a front suspension failure, his Independent Championship aspirations taking a crucial blow in the process.