Eaves takes maiden win at Oulton
23 May 2004
Dan Eaves took his first win in the British Touring Car Championship in an exciting race which saw the emergence of the safety car following an incident between SEAT's Rob Huff and privateer Rob Collard.
Eaves stole a march on polesitter Anthony Reid and made a gap between him and the rest of the field. Reid's car didn't look as quick as would be expected, and post race it was confirmed that the electrical gremlins causing him a misfire in the first race had indeed returned for the second.
Whilst Eaves moved off to make a lead at the head of the field, behind Reid it was all action. Rob Collard was off to a stunning start and challenging the two SEAT Toledos ahead.
As the Toledo duo duelled ahead, Collard got fully stuck in and soon all tree were side by side at the twisty Cheshire circuit. In a superb move, Collard was at once ahead of both the SEATs.
Down at the chicane on the first lap Huff lost out and ran wide, coming back to the circuit he nearly took out team-mate Plato.
Further down the field, race one winner Yvan Muller wasn't finding things good with maximum success ballast, and the Frenchman was overtaken by Tom Chilton as the second lap started. The top ten had crossed the line Eaves, Reid, Collard, Plato, Huff, Kaye, Turkington, Neal, Thompson, Butler-Henderson; and there were plenty of scraps shaping up in the field.
Eaves knocked off what was to be the races fastest lap on his second tour, but his moves to make space between him and those behind were undone later on. Matt Neal and James Thompson were working their way through the field, with Neal then Thommo taking Colin Turkington's MG.
Soon it was to be a five car snake, with Collard leading Plato, Huff, Kaye and Neal with all cars firmly affixed to the car in front. Plato, who had blasted Collard as a driver who was, in Plato's words, 'blatantly trying to ruin' flying laps in qualifying, was more generous about the Hampshire man's race craft after the race.
Plato and Collard diced at every corner for a couple of laps, and Collard was certainly employing all the tricks in the book to keep Plato behind him. Eventually Plato found his way through, with both Collard and Plato leaving each other just enough room to emerge the other side. That wasn't reckoning on the presence of Rob Huff.
Huff had been hard at the rear of his team-mate's car, and he stuck here as Plato went through the corner. This meant at the exit there wasn't sufficient room and the inevitable incident occurred. Both drivers had their own take on proceedings…
Huff was very direct in his appraisal of the incident. “Someone who can't drive and can't accept being overtaken decided he was going to take me off instead of getting overtaken. He wants to be very careful next time I'm behind him…”
Collard's version was rather different.
The ensuing safety car from the Huff / Collard difference of opinion meant that Eaves' hard work was undone, but the Halfords backed driver wasn't about to lose this particular race.
“The safety car was definitely a hindrance,” explains Eaves. “I was in a groove and pulling away from Reidy. Then the safety car came out so I radioed in to say that someone was making it hard for me!
“I got a good restart and Plato was nibbling at Reid's wheels and then they were gone again, I just kept my head down to the finish.”
Whilst all eyes were on the Huff / Collard incident, Matt Neal took the opportunity for a bit of a cheeky move on James Kaye ahead, punting the fellow Civic driver out of the way in his quest to move forward through the field. It didn't quite work as Neal might have hoped as a lying in wait James Thompson waved a thankyou as he sailed past the both of them.
The order behind the safety car was Eaves, Reid, Plato, Thompson, Neal, Turkington, Chilton, Muller, Butler-Henderson, Hines, all waiting for the red Audi to come in, which it did at the end of the eleventh lap.
Plato set about the outside of Reid at Old Hall, and was surprised to find that he could make it all the way around the outside, but the MG was being revisited by the misfire that had afflicted it in race one, so the MG was unable to defend.
Behind this, Neal made move to retake Thompson, and accomplished this with seemingly little incident. Once past the VX Racing driver, Neal then closed down on his old friend, Anthony Reid.
Reid's car was wide, and Neal's was certainly eager to get past, but ultimately the MG was to stay ahead. Thompson came home behind the warring pair ahead with Colin Turkington defending from Tom Chilton at the flag.
1. Dan Eaves
2. Jason Plato
3. Anthony Reid
4. Matt Neal
5. James Thompson
6. Colin Turkington
7. Tom Chilton
8. Yvan Muller
9. Luke Hines
10. Charlie Butler-Henderson