Gabriele Tarquini waltzed away from the BTCC field in Donington Parks Feature Race battle, atoning for his costly Sprint Race error.

Honda star Gabriele Tarquini was at his controlled best on a cloudy afternoon at Donington Park, biding his time during the early going and then taking advantage of a fantastic pit-stop to put the result beyond doubt before half distance.

The Italian's meteoric start from pole position in the Sprint Race proved to be a one off as it was Ford's Anthony Reid who led the field into Redgate for the first time. Thankfully there was no repeat of the earlier shenanigans and the first lap settled down with Reid leading Tarquini, Matt Neal, Rickard Rydell and James Thompson.

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With a double victory and the championship lead in his sights, Reid's pace in the opening stages was awesome and his second lap was to remain the fastest of the afternoon. Tarquini and Neal remained within two seconds of the Ford but the ballast heavy Mondeo of Rydell soon dropped away giving Thompson and the Vauxhall of Yvan Muller the opportunity to rekindle their fierce Sprint Race battle.

Alain Menu was finding that the 40 kilos extra he was carrying added to the heavier fuel load required was simply too much for his repaired Mondeo and he was holding up the remaining Super Touring machines in seventh place.

Tom Kristensen was first in line although he had Jason Plato, David Leslie and Vincent Radermecker packed up closely behind him, all climbing over one another in their efforts to pass the Mondeo. The situation boiled over on lap six when Plato clashed with Kristensen coming out of Redgate, the Honda slicing across the front of the Vauxhall as it slid into the gravel trap and retirement.

Ahead of this battle, Muller performed a textbook manoeuvre on Thompson into the old hairpin and then proceeded to undo most of the good work by mistiming his pit-stop. However Muller is not a man to sit down in the face of adversity and began a storming series of laps on his cold tyres to bring himself back into contention.

Many drivers made their stops early including Reid who dived in for service on lap eight, the Ford crew turning their man around in smart fashion. They weren't quite as smooth when it came to Rydell's stop and as the Swedish driver found Muller's Vauxhall flashing past as he returned to the track.

Tarquini and Neal pressed on with their original rubber as did Thompson and Leslie while the rest of the Super Touring runners made their stops, Menu retaining his position ahead of Plato and Radermecker as the Ford boys got two out of three stops done with no hassle.

The presence of Neal in his mirrors seemed to spur Tarquini on and while Reid spent a few laps warming his tyres up, the Honda driver pushed harder and harder until both made their stops on lap eleven. The Honda crew had the wheel off the Accord almost before it left the ground and Gabriele hit the ground running as Reid exited Goddards Hairpin.

With Leslie, yet to stop, infront of them desperately trying to hold on in the hope of leading a lap, Tarquini cut across the bows of the Ford and took the line into Redgate with Neal slotting in neatly behind. As the trio bore down on Leslie, Thompson surrendered his lead and pitted and although Tarquini bolted down the inside of the PRO Motorsport Nissan into the esses, the Scottish driver wasn't giving up yet.

As Tarquini eased away into what was proving to be a race winning lead, Leslie held off his old factory Nissan team-mate for several laps as Neal made it a Mondeo sandwich with his Primera. Finally Leslie gave up his position and pitted by which time the damage had been done and Tarquini was over four seconds to the good.

The ex-Fondmetal Formula One pilot then proceeded to control the race as he wished, letting the gap close to a fraction over three seconds by the finish even though the result was beyond question. The scrap for second place was not resolved until two corners from the end however for Neal kept the pressure on Reid who was now beginning to suffer a braking problem which forced him to run wide on the run down to the Melbourne hairpin on the final lap. Needing no second chance, the red Nissan shot down the inside of the Ford, giving Reid a nudge in the side as he completed the move.

Muller's fine mid race run had won him fourth place and he continued the pressure on those ahead until the very end and was only two seconds behind Reid at the chequered flag. The Frenchman is in a good position for the next round at Brands Hatch as he will be the first driver not to be carrying success ballast.

Thompson had a lonely run to fifth in the Honda, not able to challenge Muller and yet well clear of Rydell, whose 20 kilos of ballast took a heavy toll on his brakes.

The battle for seventh place was one of the highlights of the second half of the race which fizzled out a bit after an explosive beginning with Menu trying to hold off the Vectra twins of Plato and Radermecker. Plato was first to pass the soon to be deposed Championship leader when he ran wide at the esses with Radermecker scrambling through a lap later at McLeans.

The Swiss driver was left to nurse his car home in ninth place and could only hope that his upcoming holiday will ease the pain of what had been a poor weekend for the 1997 Champion. Leslie dropped to tenth by the end after a slow stop and was a wanted man after the race. Neal wanted to shake his hand while Reid wanted to shake his neck!

James Kaye controlled the Class B race after Alan Morrison was harpooned by Mark Lemmer at the esses on the first lap. Morrison continued but was more than 20 seconds adrift at the flag. Lemmer pitted to repair his damaged Honda Integra and actually came home third in Class after one by one the other four runners dropped out.

Despite his frustration at his former team-mate, Reid can look back at the Donington weekend with a smile on his face after not only breaking his win duck but also gaining significant ground on Menu and Rydell in the points table which he now leads.

Tarquini though was the man of the race and laid his clam for being the best placed Honda driver in the championship, if only his performances had been more consistent earlier in the year, the cheerful Italian may have been in a position to join the three Ford's and the Vauxhall's of Plato and Muller in what is now a five way battle for the last ever Super Touring BTCC crown.