James Thompson has become the seventh winner is as many races with victory in the opening HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Donington Park.
In wet conditions at the Leicestershire venue, which made things far from easy for the drivers on track, the double champion secured a first win of the year for Team Dynamics as he headed Vauxhall pair Andrew Jordan and Matt Neal to take the win.
Jordan had started from pole ahead of Harry Vaulkhard and the pair both made solid starts, as did the BMW drivers behind. However, Thompson had also got away well from the second row and on the run down to the Old Hairpin he was able to make his move on Jordan to take the lead. Further down the pack meanwhile, points leader Neal ran wide at the Old Hairpin and went across the grass, dropping down the order to 15th by the end of lap one, just behind team-mate Fabrizio Giovanardi who had started from the back of the field.
At the end of the opening lap, Thompson led from Jordan and Rob Collard who – like Colin Turkington – had managed to get ahead of Vaulkhard, while Stephen Jelley held sixth. Jason Plato lay seventh in his Chevrolet but lost position to Johnny Adam on lap two as the Scot made his move.
The following lap saw Plato shuffled back to ninth as Paul O'Neill battled past firstly Mat Jackson and then Plato in the space of a lap to put his Honda Integra into eight. Further ahead, Vaulkhard had battled past Turkington into fourth, the pair both getting sideways at McLeans.
As Thompson controlled things at the front, the battles behind continued to rage and on lap four, both Adam and O'Neill were able to get past Jelley, with O'Neill also briefly getting ahead of Adam before the Airwaves man reclaimed sixth place. Giovanardi meanwhile was now inside the top ten as was Neal with the pair having got ahead of Jackson.
The start of lap five saw Jelley's race come to an end as he came under pressure from Giovanardi and Neal into Redgate, Giovanardi went round the outside to get ahead and Neal tried to follow through, but as Jelley moved over to defend, the resulting contact saw him spin off heavily into the barriers – ripping two wheels from the car and leading to the Safety Car being deployed.
It left Thompson leading from Jordan and Collard, with Vaulkhard fourth, Turkington fifth and Adam sixth; O'Neill having slipped down outside the top ten.
When the race resumed on lap seven, Adam was soon shuffled back by Plato, Neal and Giovanardi, while on the following lap, Plato took fifth from Turkington at McLeans. Neal quickly followed through and Turkington's race was soon run as on the eighth lap, he spun off at Coppice after being tapped by Adam Jones – who was trying to make a move on Giovanardi behind for position. Ahead meanwhile, Vaulkhard briefly took third from Collard only for the BMW to quickly retake the place.