Fabrizio Giovanardi has secured his third win of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship season after a dramatic opening race of the weekend at Snetterton.
Giovanardi made the most of an incident involving Jason Plato and Colin Turkington on lap one to move towards the front, and was never in any danger of losing the lead when he got into first place as he came home ahead of Mat Jackson and Paul O'Neill – the latter securing arguably the most popular podium finish of the season to date in his sunshine.co.uk Honda Integra.
With a fast-starting Turkington alongside him on the front row, Plato completed a slow green flag lap in an effort to prevent Turkington getting heat into the rear tyres of his BMW, but the points leader was able to jump into the lead as the field headed to Riches for the first time. Further back, Matt Neal – closest rival to Turkingon in the standings – suffered a spin at turn one to drop to the rear of the field.
Plato launched his bid to reclaim the lead on the run into the Esses, but slight contact saw Turkington tipped into a spin as the two cars swept left, which in turn slowed Plato when he then went into the following right-hander. A nudge from behind from Andrew Jordan saw the Chevrolet go off to the infield and Plato plummet down the order, with Jordan taking the lead from Giovanardi, Jonathan Adam and James Thompson. Turkington meanwhile rejoined in eighth.
On lap two, Thompson got ahead of Adam into third place while O'Neill took fifth from Jackson and by the third lap, there was a new man out front as Giovanardi moved ahead of Vauxhal team-mate Jordan into the lead. Jordan was soon coming under pressure from Thompson behind, while Jackson was also a man on the move as he quickly got ahead of both O'Neill and Adam to go fourth. Plato meanwhile circulated for a few laps before pulling into the pits to retire.
By lap nine, Thompson finally managed to take second from Jordan at Russell, but then slowed exiting Sear on the next lap with mechanical woes, with the Safety Car being deployed when it appeared the Honda was about to come to a halt at the Esses. Thompson was able to get the back to the pits however, meaning the caution period lasted just a single lap.
On the restart, Giovanardi pulled away with Jordan under pressure from Jackson and the teenager suffered a spin at the Esses with his podium hopes ending at the same time. That gave second to Jackson, while O'Neill slotted into third as he dived down the inside of Adam at Russell.
From there to the finish, the top three were able to run without problems and without pressure as Giovanardi followed up his win in the final race at Croft with the first victory after the summer break. Second for Jackson was also a good return to action as his illness at Croft, while for O'Neill, third place gave him his first BTCC podium since the 2003 season and was followed by emotional scenes as the trophies were handed out.
but Adam was forced to defend hard to keep a recovering Turkington behind. Turkington's team-mate Stephen Jelley took sixth from Adam Jones and Dave Pinkney, while Matt Neal was ninth despite another off at the Esses and contact with the BMW of Rob Collard – who has suffered a spin on lap one and would ultimately retire with a puncture two laps from the end.
Harry Vaulkhard completed the top ten on his first outing under the Bamboo Engineering banner, although he lost time after being hit by the Cartridge World SEAT of Gordon Shedden, which was suffering with a gearbox problems and would ultimately retire.
Tom Chilton, Jordan, John George – in his 100th BTCC race – and Martin Johnson completed the 14 finishers.
To view results, CLICK HERE.