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Round 11: Neal ends Thruxton run
4 June 2006
Matt Neal claimed his first ever victory at Thruxton in the second race for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at the high-speed Hampshire circuit – although it was another Honda Integra driver who would launch the drive of the race.
Starting from the second row of the grid, Neal would repeat the feat of race one winner Gordon Shedden in leading for the entire race, moving ahead of Shedden at the start to take a lead he would keep for the remainder of the race.
However, while the defending champion secured a maiden win at the track, it was all action behind as a train of cars took part in a frantic battle for position for the entire 18 laps. Shedden held second from the start, as he would do for the entire race, but behind him the battle for third kicked off straight away with Tom Chilton doing his best to find a way past the SEAT of Darren Turner, which held third at the end of the opening lap. Rob Collard held fifth from Gavin Smith and Colin Turkington, while Jason Plato had quickly broken into the top having been forced to retire from the opening race with a puncture.
Plato though wouldn't be involved in the battle for long as, on lap three, he was forced into his second retirement of the day. When Turkington dived past Smith at the complex on lap three, Plato attempted to follow him through, but contact between the SEAT and the Astra Sport Hatch resulted in broken rear suspension and made it a double DNF for Plato.
As the leading pack of cars blasted round Thruxton line astern, one car on the move was the luridly coloured Integra of Dave Pinkney, which had started from 15th on the grid after contact with Fabrizio Giovanardi had resulted in a retirement in race one. By lap five, the Motorbase Performance man was up to eighth after battling past the Italian and soon started to close on the sister Astra of Gavin Smith for seventh. On lap nine, Pinkney claimed the place with a daring move around the outside at the Complex while another Astra was losing places as Chilton got sideways out of Village to let Collard by into fourth – Turkington following him through on the run up to Club.
It left Neal leading from Shedden, with Turner still in touch in third having failed with a move on the Scot on lap seven. The two MGs were fourth and fifth, with Chilton sixth and 'man on a mission' Pinkney seventh when the safety car was deployed to allow marshals to remove debris from the circuit.
As the safety car pulled into the pits at the start of lap 13, Pinkney caught Chilton napping to blast past the youngster on the restart for sixth and a lap later the black and pink Integra launched an identical move to take fifth from Turkington.
All over the rear of Rob Collard, Pinkney would then pick up another place on lap 16 – the race having been extended by two laps due to the safety car period – when Turner and Shedden made contact fighting for second at the Complex. Although both cars would continue, Turner lost momentum which allowed Collard into third at his home circuit and Pinkney into fourth.
With the squabbling behind giving him some breathing space, Neal picked up a victory which further extends his championship lead, with Shedden second and Collard third – despite the best efforts of Pinkney on the final two laps to find a way past the MG, the two making contact on the final lap to send Collard straight over the kerbs.
Fifth went to Turner who continued to perform the job asked of him by SEAT by picking up more points, with Turkington sixth and James Kaye seventh after another uneventful race for the Synchro man. Giovanardi, Chilton and Jason Hughes completed the top ten.
The reverse grid draw will see James Kaye start the final race of the day from pole position.
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