Fabrizio Giovanardi made it two wins from two at Rockingham in a carnage strewn second race for the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship – which saw just twelve cars still running at the flag.
Simon Blanckley, Fiona Leggate, Chris Stockton, Richard Marsh, Erkut Kizilirmak and Adam Jones all failed to make the grid but a dramatic opening lap would see five of the front-running cars removed from contention, with the distinct possibility that some of those five won't be able to make the start of race three later this afternoon.
When the race got underway, Giovanardi made the perfect start to maintain his lead into turn one, while Matt Neal made a stunning start to slide into second place as the field streamed into Deene for the first time. However, it was at this point that things would start to go wrong…
Running into Yentwood, Tom Chilton tried to reclaim second place from Neal and tagged the back of the Honda Civic, which enabled him to re-take second place. It also enabled Colin Turkington to get a run on Neal into Chapman, but as the pair then headed to Pif Paf, the BMW was suddenly airbourne after making contact with the rear right of the Civic. Slamming to the ground, Turkington slid off into the gravel with damaged left front suspension, while Neal suddenly found himself with three wheels on his wagon as the right rear departed. Spinning as a result, Neal slammed into the side of team-mate Gordon Shedden 'slicing the side of the Honda open like a tin'. Shedden would also have damage to his front suspension as the car returned to the pit-lane.
However, as the field streamed out of the corner, other drivers were also in trouble. Out of sight of the camera's, which had been focused on the BMW/Honda collision, Mike Jordan had suffered damage to his Eurotech Honda which was now crabbing back to the pits, while Eoin Murray had a very damaged front on his Quest Racing Alfa Romeo which would also head back to the pits to retire. Team AllAboutProperty.com driver Martyn Bell would also pit with a puncture, although unlike the others, he was able to resume.
As the mess was cleared up, the field circulated behind the Safety Car, with Giovanardi leading from Chilton and Tom Onslow-Cole, with Jason Plato fourth and Matt Jackson fifth. When the race got underway, moves were quickly made further down the order, with Jason Hughes losing out to Dave Pinkney and Darren Turner in consecutive laps to drop from seventh place to ninth, before losing out in one foul swoop to John George and Gareth Howell on lap seven to drop out of the top ten.
Back at the front, Jackson was putting pressure on Plato and took fourth place at turn two on lap eight, while further back, Darren Turner was storming through the pack after starting at the back, taking sixth place from Matt Allison on lap ten.
Gareth Howell was the next driver to fall, when he was forced to pull off on lap twelve as an unidentified gas started to fill the car, while Jim Pocklington also dropped out to take the running number of cars down to just twelve – 25 having started the first race of the day.
A battle lower down the order had George and Hughes dicing for ninth place, but back at the front, Onslow-Cole had decided that third wasn't where he wanted to finish for his first BTCC podium and was ready to go for second. On lap 17, he took the place going into the Esses, but on the run through turn one, Chilton dived back inside to get the line into Deene and retake the place, despite Onslow-Coles best efforts to fend off the challenge and keep the Vectra behind. However, the rookie wasn't to be beaten, and on the penultimate lap he was through again coming through turn one and this time wasn't to be defeated – securing second behind double winner Giovanardi.
Chilton had to settle for third ahead of Mat Jackson, with Plato and Turner rounding out the top six. Matt Allison took seventh ahead of Dave Pinkney – securing the first points for A-Tech – while Hughes and George rounded out the top ten. George will now start the final race of the weekend from the front of the grid. Rick Kerry took eleventh in his diesel powered BMW 1 Series, while Bell rounded out the twelve finishers – coming agonisingly close to making up the lap difference to Kerry that had been there when he exited the pits after his earlier puncture.