Jason Plato took a lights-to-flag victory in the opening Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Rockingham.
Having qualified on pole following a controversial qualifying session, where he was involved in a fracas with rival Matt Neal that resulted in both drivers being fined and handed penalty points, Plato made the best start when the lights went out and was never headed as he secured a vital win to keep his championship hopes alive.
Plato led a Chevrolet 1-2 as Paul O'Neill matched his best result of the season for the GoMobileUK.com with Tech-Speed team to secure second place. O'Neill had bogged down off the line and lost position to Rob Austin's Audi, only for contact between the pair at Pif Paf, which saw Austin spin and enabled O'Neill through.
The pair had broken away from the chasing pack before a mid-race Safety Car period to remove the cars of Dave Newsham and Rob Collard from the gravel after separate incidents on track, but were able to keep the turbo brigade at bay when the race resumed.
They were helped in part by a huge battle that developed for third as the race wore on between Gordon Shedden, Frank Wrathall and Matt Neal. Shedden took the place early on after getting ahead of Andy Jordan – who would retire shortly afterwards – but then came under increasing pressure from a charging Wrathalll in the Dynojet Toyota.
As the pair battled, Neal was able to close in behind having worked his way through the field after a slow start, with the trio swapping positions a number of times before Wrathall finally got through to secure the final place on the podium – his third successive third place finish.
Neal took fourth with Nick Foster stealing fifth from Shedden after a stunning drive in his West Surrey Racing BMW saw him come from eleventh on the grid at the start. Shedden had to therefore settle for sixth place with Austin battling back to seventh after his incident on lap one with O'Neill.
Tom Boardman, James Nash and Michael Caine completed the top ten – the latter scoring first time out.
Former championship leader Mat Jackson retired early on after picking up damage in a first lap clash.