Jason Plato celebrated the birth of his new daughter Alena by picking up a historic victory in the opening race of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship meeting at Donington Park.
In a race that had an aborted start and two Safety Car periods, the 2001 champion secured the first win for a diesel car in the history of the series ahead of Vauxhall pairing Matt Neal and Tom Onslow-Cole.
The initial start to the race was aborted when the start lights failed, which meant that when the race kicked off, it did so with the drop of a flag above the start/finish line. That led to some confusion however as Colin Turkington from third on the grid, and Stuart Oliver further back, both went when the flag was raised rather than as it was dropped and picked up drive-through penalties as a result.
The jump unsurprisingly gave Turkington the lead into Redgate for the first time ahead of polesitter Tom Onslow-Cole and fellow front-row starter Jason Plato. Gordon Shedden settled into fourth, with Darren Turner and defending champion Fabrizio Giovanardi rounding out the top six.
However, the action would really kick off on the second lap, as Plato got out of shape at the Old Hairpin and ran wide, allowing both Shedden and Turner to find a way past. Giovanardi attempted to follow them through having got a good run out of the corner but was then on the outside through Schwantz Curve and ran wide onto the grass. Behind him, Rob Collard – who had started from the back following a gearbox issue – ran wide into the gravel on the outside of the Old Hairpin and was collected by John George when the Team JAG man then ran wide, ripping a wheel from the rear of his Integra and putting Collard's Motorbase BMW out of the race.
With Turkington pitting at the end of lap two to take his drive through penalty, Onslow-Cole secured the lead of the race ahead of Shedden and Turner, with Plato now fourth, Tom Chilton fifth and Matt Neal sixth. Matt Allison had climbed into a solid seventh place in the first of the Robertshaw Chevrolet Lacettis, but it wasn't a run that would last for long as he ran wide coming out of Coppice and took a trip across the gravel into the tyre wall. With three stricken cars on the track, there was little choice but to throw out the yellow flags and bring the Safety Car out on track.
Giovanardi took the chance to pit and remove grass from the front of his Vectra before resuming at the rear of the field, while Turkington had a coming together with Erkut at Redgate before lining up behind the Safety Car. Aside from the battles at the front of the field, Mat Jackson had now climbed into the points as he ran in seventh place, with Adam Jones, Andy Jordan and Steven Kane also having broken into the top ten.
When the race resumed on lap seven, Onslow-Cole set about extending a lead as the pack squabbled behind him. On lap eight, Plato looked at trying to pass Turner for third, but Turner himself was trying to find a way past Shedden's Honda Civic to move into second. When Shedden ran wide at Coppice, Turner dived for the inside with Plato going for the outside – Shedden finding himself in the middle of a SEAT sandwich as the two diesel cars powered by on the run down to the Esses; Turner taking second and Plato taking third. Shedden now found himself down in fourth ahead of Chilton and Neal, but the Vauxhall man was keen to climb up the pack.
On lap nine, he moved ahead of Chilton into fifth place and then moved up to fourth a lap later when Turner slowed coming out of the final turn, slipping to the back of the pack with a slow lap as he returned to the pits. Mat Jackson was also a man on the move and was now pressurising Chilton for what was now fifth place.