Gordon Shedden secured his second win of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship season at Donington Park as he mastered tricky conditions to secure honours in the 16th round of the year.
The Team Halfords man came home comfortably clear of the Team Aircool SEAT of Adam Jones while Matt Neal completed the podium, despite being forced to pit with a puncture early in the race. Jason Plato finished ahead of title rival Fabrizio Giovanardi to secure the points lead going into the second race of the day shortly after lunch.
When the race kicked off, it was Mat Jackson who made the best start from fourth on the grid to blast away from the line and take the lead on the run into Redgate for the first time, but it wasn't a lead he would hold for long, as pole man Shedden and fellow front row starter Darren Turner both got ahead of the BMW before the end of the lap as the field struggled in the wet conditions. Neal held fourth ahead of Colin Turkington and Jones, while Tom Chilton and Mike Jordan were both in the wars – Chilton having gone off coming down the Craner Curves and taking a trip across the gravel at the Old Hairpin and Jordan going through the kitty litter himself at McLeans after being hung out to dry on the outside. To complete a miserable opening lap, Chilton also went off between McLeans and Coppice.
As the field shuffled on the second lap, Jones moved into fifth ahead of Turkington while Giovanardi had moved into the top ten for the first time in his Vectra, engine issues having left him well down the order after qualifying. However, by the end of the lap three, the field would be heading behind the Safety Car, when Chilton tipped Fiona Leggate into a spin coming through Schwantz Curve and then got sideways himself before being collected by the SEAT of Tom Ferrier which was left stranded on the circuit on the inside of McLeans.
It meant Turner was able to close onto the rear of Shedden, with Jackson behind, but suddenly Jones was up to fourth as Neal peeled into the pits with a puncture, resuming in 16th place ahead of Chilton. When the race resumed on the eighth lap, the conditions quickly started to claim victims as Eoin Murray, Erkut and Dave Pinkney all sailed straight on at the Chicane, Pinkney seemingly in competition with Chilton to see who could be involved in the most incidents during the race.
Neal was a man on a mission, and on lap nine he was up to eleventh after a forceful move on Simon Blanckley at the Old Hairpin (one that would lead to Blanckley being forced to retire), while ahead of him, Jordan was also making up places as he battled back from his first lap off, taking ninth for Giovanardi on lap ten and then making up further places past Matt Allison and Plato on consecutive laps – the move on Plato coming afte running three abreast with the SEAT man and Tom Onslow-Cole on the start-finish straight before braving a side-by-side run with Plato down the Craner Curves.
Jordan's charge was halted by the reintroduction of the Safety Car again when Fiona Leggate tried to regain control when she went straight on at the Chicane and instead went into the tyre barrier, with Shedden leading from Turner, Jackson, Jones and Onslow-Cole.
On the restart, Jones got ahead of Jackson into third, while further down the order the conditions were claiming two more victims. Having spun at the opening corner, Martyn Bell – who had been running just outside the points – came across the Honda Integra of John George across the circuit at McLeans and promptly spun off again into the gravel, both drivers being forced to retire from the race. Giovanardi was also in the wars, going wide at the Old Hairpin after a touch from Matt Allison to drop the points leader out of the top ten.
On lap 16, Jackson got out of shape running down the Craner Curves and ran wide allowing Jordan into fourth as the BMW dropped down the order, while Turner – unseen by TV cameras – slipped down to 13th and Onslow-Cole had a spin coming out of Coppice – meaning that the order at the end of lap 16 read Shedden, Jones, Jordan, Plato and Neal, the defending champion up to fifth despite his earlier stop.
At the start of the penultimate lap, Neal slipped past Plato to take fourth at Redgate, but had his sights set on the podium and dived down the inside of Jordan at McLeans on the final lap to give Team Halfords a double podium, the impressive Jones splitting the two Civics.
Jordan had to settle for fourth ahead of Plato – now back on top of the points standings – while Allison was sixth. Turkington, having dropped to eleventh after a moment on lap twelve, battled back to seventh, while the final points went to Giovanardi, Jackson and Onslow-Cole. Eoin Murray was eleventh ahead of Turner, Richard Marsh, Erkut, Chilton and Pinkney, the A-Tech man having at least three more visits off track before the race finally drew to a close.