Mat Jackson has moved ahead of Colin Turkington in the race for third in the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship standings after winning the opening race at Brands Hatch, although Fabrizio Giovanardi has secured the championship crown despite failing to score for the first time since Donington Park last season.
Giovanardi took the flag in 14th place, but with main rival Jason Plato only managing fifth place, the Italian holds an unassailable lead ahead of the final two races of the weekend.
The race itself became one dominated by BMWs, with Jackson storming to his fourth victory of the 2008 campaign. Off the line, Jackson slotted into second place behind poleman Stephen Jelley, with Darren Turner holding third from Gordon Shedden, Rob Collard and Colin Turkington. Matt Neal meanwhile endured a terrible start from the second row and dropped down to ninth place. Plato was a place ahead of Neal in ninth, while Giovanardi was down in eleventh.
At the end of the opening lap, Jackson took the lead from Jelley as the pair came over the start-finish straight, but further back there was a scare for Giovanardi as he tangled with Adam Jones going into Paddock Hill Bend – both drivers taking to the gravel in the process. As Giovanardi returned to the track, John George and Jason Hughes tangled and with George stranded on the inside of the circuit, the Safety Car was deployed. Before catching the Safety Car however, Turner and Shedden had moved into podium positions, both having got ahead of Jelley on the race to the line.
The race resumed on lap five but Jelley was soon out of contention when he slowed shortly after the restart with his car stuck in fifth gear. That left Collard in fourth ahead of Turkington and Steven Kane with Plato not far behind. Giovanardi meanwhile was now twelfth.
It soon became apparent that Giovanardi wasn't focused on fighting for positions as he continued to run outside the top ten and found himself dicing for position with the Honda Civic of Micky Doyle, so the attention turned towards the front where Kane was looking strong as he tried to find a way past Turkington. On lap seven he dived down the inside into Clearways and then set about chasing down team-mate Collard ahead.
Collard however was also on the move and on lap twelve he took Shedden for third going into Paddock Hill Bend, only for Shedden to then fight back into Druids. Collard wasn't to be denied however and as the pair went side-by-side down the hill to Graham Hill Bend, the BMW swept past into third.
Shedden appeared to be struggling and within a lap, had also dropped behind Kane who took fourth at Druids. The Scot continued to drop places and would ultimately finish outside the top ten.
On lap 16, Kane took third from fellow Motorbase ace Collard at Graham Hill Bend when Collard ran wide while ahead, Turner seemed to be slowing – which in turn was allowing Jackson to pull away out front in the lead.
Turner was indeed slowing as the race progressed and on lap 19, Kane took second at Druids. On lap 23, he slowed further to allow Collard, Turkington and Plato to come through, although he then made contact with Matt Neal as seeking to get back up to speed. Neal had been all over the rear of Plato up to this point, but was now faced with the sight of Turner ahead although he would take the SEAT before the finish.
Out front however, Jackson was comfortable in the lead and duly took his fourth win of the season, while David Bartrum and the Motorbase team were going crazy on pit lane as Kane and Collard took the flag in second and third; the teams best result of the season on home soil. Collard just held off Turkington who took fourth, with Plato and Neal rounding out the top six. Despite doing his best, Plato proved unable to score the points needed to keep the title fight alive and will now be focused firmly on helping SEAT exit the BTCC with a win in the remaining two races.
Turner took seventh ahead of Tom Chilton, while Tom Onslow-Cole and Andrew Jordan rounded out the points scorers.
For full results, CLICK HERE