Fabrizio Giovanardi has taken the opening victory of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season after winning the opening race at Thruxton.
The Triple Eight driver took the flag ahead of Jason Plato
and Mat Jackson
after a race that saw numerous drivers run into problems and has left a number of teams with work to do ahead of race two.
Gordon Shedden had started the race from pole and led from Giovanardi until the eighth lap, when he went off into the tyres at Church – allowing Giovanardi through into a lead he would keep the finish. Plato meanwhile had run in fourth through the early laps behind the sister Honda Civic of Matt Neal, but a puncture for Neal on lap nine dropped him well down the order and allowed the Chevrolet through to second.
Jackson's run to third was far for straightforward as the Airwaves BMW man found himself battling for position through the early laps with the Ford of Tom Onslow-Cole. Jackson managed to battle ahead of the Team Aon man at the complex on lap seven and then took advantage of the problems for the Hondas ahead to secure his place on the podium, although Paul O'Neill in the leading sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra was closing in rapidly at the finish as he picked up fourth.
O'Neill had also battled hard with Onslow-Cole and team-mate Tom Chilton
but both Fords suffered punctures late on; Chilton going off into the tyres at Church when his front left failed and Onslow-Cole suffering a similar problem through Village on the following lap. Onslow-Cole was at least able to continue and returned after a pitstop to finish in 13th.
Behind O'Neill, Tom Boardman was a fine fifth on his return to the series, just ahead of debutant Phil Glew who enjoyed a fine race in the second Triple Eight Vauxhall to take sixth. Fellow Clio Cup graduate Alex MacDowall battled through from 15th on the grid to finish seventh ahead of veteran Dave Pinkney, with John George
and Andy Neate rounding out the points scorers. In his first race since his Britcar accident in late 2008, Neate held of the ageing Vauxhall Astra of Martin Johnson in a run to the line to score his first points of the year.
A recovering Neal was twelfth ahead of Onslow-Cole, with Andrew Jordan
the final classified finisher in 14th. Having been tipped into a spin by Onslow-Cole on the seventh lap, Jordan later ran off track at Church and was forced to put for a new tyre.
Elsewhere, Rob Collard
was an early retirement after tangling with O'Neill on lap four and damaging his front right wheel, while Steven Kane
missed the start with a driveshaft issue – although he would return to the track to complete six laps.
Shaun Hollamby brought his VW Golf into the pits to retire after five laps, while Matt Hamilton suffered a spin into the grass that damaged his car on lap eleven.