Matt Neal secured a comfortable win in the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race at Rockingham, making the most of mixed circuit conditions to pick up a firs win of the year.
Early morning rain led to team's being forced to gamble on tyres for the race, with the Honda team electing to put both drivers on dry tyres despite a slippery circuit.
A good start saw Neal jump into the lead off the line ahead of pole-sitter Tom Chilton
and the double champion was never headed from that point onwards, opening a lead of over ten seconds before backing off in the closing stages.
Neal's team-mate Gordon Shedden
came through to second place ahead of Chevrolet's Jason Plato, with the two drivers also running on slick tyres – proving that slick tyres had been the right call at the start of the race.
Slick tyres also helped Tom Boardman fight his way through the field to fourth place, while Steven Kane
and Paul O'Neill diced for fifth until the lap, when Kane was able to find a way through at Yentwood.
Andrew Jordan had stormed through the pack early on on a mixture of slick and wet tyres, but as the circuit dried he was unable to match the pace of his rivals and had to settle for seventh, with Tom Onslow-Cole
eighth. Onslow-Cole had also started the race on a mix of tyres and suffered a high-speed trip across the grass exiting Pif Paf as he struggled with the handling of the car.
Martin Johnson matched his best ever BTCC finish in ninth, while Rob Collard
was tenth having pitted to change onto dry tyres. Collard was involved in a fight with Chilton – who also pitted – for the final point and took the position on the final lap when the pair made contact at the Brook Chicane.
Alex MacDowall slipped back through the pack to twelfth as he struggled with his tyres while Mat Jackson
was only 13th after also requiring a pitstop.
James Nash and Andy Neate were the only retirements with 18 cars making it to the finish.