Mat Jackson led home Jason Plato
and James Nash in a historic Chevrolet one-two-three in the opening HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) encounter at Silverstone, as the three blue machines proved comfortably the cars to beat around the high-speed Northants circuit.
As had been predicted, Rob Collard
got the jump at the start in the front row-sitting Airwaves BMW, as pole-sitter Jackson braved it out on the outside but had to concede the edge into Copse for the first time. Behind the two leaders, Plato and Nash in the other two RML-run Chevrolets closed ranks on the fast-starting Team RAC BMW of championship leader Colin Turkington. The Irishman, indeed, then ran side-by-side with countryman Jonny Adam for fifth spot from Becketts to Brooklands before the latter narrowly got the nod.
As the leading duo pulled away, the three Team RAC cars ran in close company as defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi
– who had embarrassingly spun at Maggots on the green flag lap around to the grid – attempted to infiltrate them and found a way past Stephen Jelley
before the lap was out. The pair would continue to duel race-long, but there was less cheer for fellow VX Racing stars Matt Neal
and Andrew Jordan, who collided at Becketts to allow Tom Chilton
in the Ford Focus to dive through in-between them and into tenth.
There were early baths for Tom Onslow-Cole, who slammed into the barriers spectacularly – but thankfully without injury – at Brooklands in the second Team Aon car, with the third Team RAC machine of series returnee Reid swiftly joining him in the gravel trap in a separate incident. Others to suffer drama in the initial stages of the race were spinners Martyn Bell
and Dave Pinkney, with the latter ultimately dumping his Team Dynamics Honda Civic into the Copse gravel trap in the closing moments.
With Jackson applying the pressure on Collard, a move was finally made at Brooklands on lap four, as the pole man dived for the inside and briefly slithered into the BMW, the pair lightly swapping paint and wobbling in unison in a hard-but-fair manoeuvre that earned the Racing Silverline ace the lead. Behind them, Nash was giving Plato no respite for third place, but a safety car for the Onslow-Cole and Reid 'offs' swiftly stabilised the order.
At the re-start, a racy-looking Plato immediately latched onto the back of new second-placed man Collard, with Jelley and Giovanardi continuing to go at it hammer-and-tongs further back as the Italian moved through into seventh. With Collard under pressure, Turkington and Adam were similarly working their way onto the back of the tussle for the runner-up spot to make it a four-way scrap.
Plato got a run on Collard going onto the start-finish straight heading into lap 15 and pulled alongside and past, with the opportunistic Nash taking advantage of the move to similarly dive by the BMW on the inside line into Copse, making it a Chevy one-two-three for the first time in the race. As Collard fought back, he clipped the rear of the RML car and almost lost track position to the closely-pursuing Turkington, with all the in-fighting allowing Giovanardi and Jelley to come along to play into the bargain.
A second safety car period on lap 17 for an oil slick left by the Honda Integra of Martin Johnson wiped out Jackson's two-second lead, and when the action resumed once more with just five laps left to run, it began to look like team orders might come into play in the Chevrolet camp, given Plato's far more advantageous championship position. The 2001 BTCC Champion was certainly looking in feisty mood, but a lock-up allowed the ever-present Nash to latch right onto the back of him, forcing him to concentrate his efforts on both defending and attacking at the same time.
Plato ran very wide and briefly off-track at the beginning of lap 22 as the pressure told and his tyres faded, only just rejoining still in second place, and further lock-ups later around the lap allowed Jackson to consolidate his lead at about a second at the head of the field as the impressive Nash refused to call off his bid for the runner-up laurels.