Mat Jackson made it a near-perfect day with his second triumph from three starts at Silverstone in the HiQ British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), as the title duel between Colin Turkington
and Fabrizio Giovanardi
rumbles on to Rockingham in three weeks' time.
As the BMWs made the most of their rear wheel-drive advantage at the start, Rob Collard
maintained his reverse grid pole position advantage as he vaulted into the lead, pursued by Airwaves BMW team-mate Jonny Adam and the fast-starting Team RAC car of Turkington. Front row starter Johnny Herbert found himself similarly swallowed up by race one winner Mat Jackson, with the Racing Silverline star making a superb getaway to snatch fourth, as the Vauxhalls of Giovanardi and Andrew Jordan
went side-by-side, the latter unfortunately getting his Vectra sideways and collecting the luckless Tom Chilton, putting the Team Aon ace out on the spot and removing one of the three-strong VX Racing challenge from the front-running battle. To rub salt into the wounds, the sister machine of Matt Neal
picked up hefty bonnet damage from the various first lap shenanigans.
As Turkington attacked Adam for second, a side-by-side tussle between the pair led to contact, seeing the championship leader sneak through and enabling the opportunistic Jackson to follow him into third. Further back, Giovanardi gave Herbert a friendly 'love-tap' into Becketts, forcing the former British Grand Prix winner and series newcomer wide and diving down the inside into Luffield – but as Plato tried to follow through, he tipped the Honda Civic into a spin and the gravel trap, sending Herbert plummeting down the order to 18th, and the man dubbed the 'Romford Rocket' would later end his BTCC debut in retirement with mechanical woes.
Up at the front, meanwhile, Jackson easily found a way past Turkington for second, and immediately set about chasing down leader Collard with a succession of fastest laps. Behind them, Adam fancied his chances of reliving Turkington of third too, with the two BMWs continued side-by-side tussle allowing Giovanardi and Plato to latch onto the back of them, with the second Team RAC machine of Stephen Jelley
and the incredibly fast-starting James Nash – from all the way down at the back of the grid – similarly in fairly close attendance.
Jelley was the first to make a move, getting alongside and past Plato on the run towards Becketts, whilst the racy Giovanardi would also make progress by finding a way past Adam up the inside along the start-finish straight not long afterwards. Jelley was the next to demote his fellow BMW driver, placing the defending series champion in a rather uncomfortable orange Team RAC sandwich. The former British F3 front-runner would do an even better team job in getting by Giovanardi for fourth, with the Italian's lack of straight-line speed in his Vauxhall Vectra meaning he had little response to the BMWs.
That left 'Gio' to focus his efforts on defending from the ever-present Adam, Plato and Nash behind, with the latter rather injudiciously giving his RML team-mate a nudge at Brooklands late on from which both were fortunate to emerge unscathed. The other Lacetti, though, was in fine fettle indeed, as the irresistible Jackson hunted down and passed Collard just after half distance, diving by up the inside into Brooklands much as he had done in race one to scamper off into the lead.
His Airwaves adversary, though, rapidly made it clear that he was in no mood to give up without a decent fight, and whilst the new race leader was supremely late on the brakes into Becketts, he soon began to suffer from a drop-off in grip, as in race two. That enabled the gritty Collard to close back up again, turning what many observers had believed was a foregone conclusion all-of-a-sudden into a fraught, no-holds barred, all-out duel for glory.
With the gap coming down again to barely half a second, the pair ran quite literally nose-to-tail for some time, with the increasingly ragged Jackson at one point putting all four of his wheels onto the kerb and allowing Collard to have a run on him. Though able to rebuff his rival's advances, the way the Chevrolet was sliding around the circuit meant the race one winner was under constant pressure, as the far smoother Collard was able to practically push him around.
By dint of holding the tightest line that he could, though, Jackson somehow held on, taking the chequered flag barely two tenths of a second ahead after soaking up immense pressure from his pursuer. For the winner, the result made it two wins from the weekend, three from the last four starts and six podiums in succession, vaulting him up the championship table, whilst for Collard, the runner-up laurels ensured that a troubled weekend at least ended on a high note, and the 40-year-old received a hero's welcome from his team and fans alike when he stepped out of his car in parc ferme afterwards.
Turkington claimed the bottom step of the rostrum – thereby extending his advantage in the title chase from nine points to eleven with two meetings now left on the calendar – as the Irishman was closely followed across the line by team-mate Jelley, Giovanardi, Adam, Plato, Nash, Paul O'Neill and Dave Pinkney, who grabbed the final marker for tenth place.
To see the race result in full, click here