For the second successive Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting, Fabrizio Giovanardi made it a double win for VX Racing as he took the honours in race two at Thruxton.
The Italian held off the challenge of a charging Matt Neal in the closing stages for his fourth win in five starts from a race that saw arguably the biggest incident seen in the BTCC so far this season.
The drama started before the race even got underway when, as the grid was cleared ready for the green flag lap, the engine on Jason Plato's SEAT failed to start. Although the car would start before the green flag lap got underway, it was only after a mechanic had remained on the grid beyond the allotted time – meaning that Plato would pick up an automatic drive through penalty.
As the lights went green, it was once again the Team RAC BMW of Colin Turkington that made the best start as the Northern Irishman blasted away from the line to take the lead as the field streamed into the complex for the first time. Turkington was then forced to defend from the cars behind during the opening laps as he struggled to get heat into the tyres of the rear-wheel drive machine.
Turkington did the best he could to defend the lead for the first three laps, but on lap four he ran wide coming through Church, not only allowing Giovanardi through into the lead, but dropping all the way down to sixth place.
It meant Giovanardi led from team-mate Tom Chilton, with Matt Neal in an impressive third on his 'bogey circuit' and Matt Allison in fourth in the Motorbase Performance SEAT Toledo. Behind Allison, Darren Turner was fifth, followed by Turkington and Gareth Howell.
On lap five, Howell ran wide at Club chicane, making up a place in the process as he jumped ahead of Turkington, but on the following lap, all hell let loose on the run into corner. Out of sight of the cameras, Howell apparently tagged the back of Turner, which in turn put the SEAT Leon into the back of Allison's Toledo. The result was Turner and Allison spearing off into the barrier at high-speed, with Allison lucky not to roll as he impacted with the tyre wall and Turner's car suffering severe damage to the front.
The Safety Car was deployed while the drivers left their cars and a yellow flag would remain in force at the final chicane for the remainder of the race which removed the chance of overtaking at one of the best places on the circuit.
When the race finally got back under, Giovanardi led from Chilton, Neal, Howell, Turkington and Jordan, but Jordan made light work of Turkington as he moved past the BMW into fifth place at Church on lap ten – the first lap back under racing conditions.
Howell would slow into retirement in the second Toledo while there was just one more change for position in the closing stages as Neal took second from Chilton – doing his best to close in on Giovanardi but unable to make a move on the Italian.
Behind the top three – Giovanardi, Neal and Chilton – Jordan took fourth, while the top six was completed by Turkington and Jason Plato who had battled back from his drive-through. Tom Onslow-Cole was seventh in the second BMW while Gordon Shedden completed the top eight in the second Team Halfords Honda Civic. Jason Hughes and Dave Pinkney completed the top ten and will share the front row of the grid for the final race of the day.
Simon Blanckley, Fiona Leggate, Erkut and Rick Kerry completed the 14 finishers.