Having expressed his wishes to win for the memory of David Leslie and Richard Lloyd, Gordon Shedden ensured that he paid the ultimate tribute to the pair with victory in the opening race of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship weekend at Rockingham.

The Team Halfords driver led from start-to-finish in a challenging race at the Northamptonshire venue, which started with rain in the air and ended with it falling heavily onto the circuit - providing difficult conditions for the drivers on track.

When the lights went green, Shedden made the best start to lead the way around the Rockingham banking towards Deene, while Darren Turner made a fine start from the second row of the grid to jump into second place ahead of front-row starter Matt Neal. Adam Jones, who had started third, slipped down to fourth ahead of Mat Jackson and Colin Turkington. Further back, Jason Plato appeared to get a nudge turning into Yentwood, with the Leon TDi getting out of shape and the 2001 champion slipping down to eleventh place.

It didn't take long for Plato to climb into the top ten however, as on lap two he forced his way past the Motorbase BMW of Rob Collard on the quick run through the left-hander at Pif Paf, with Collard spinning off onto the grass and plummeting down the order. Colin Turkington was another BMW in trouble as he suddenly dropped from sixth to ninth with the Team RAC man slowly slipping down the field from that point onwards.

Despite the best efforts of Shedden to break away at the front, it soon became apparent that the nature of the Rockingham circuit wasn't going to make it easy, with the turbo diesel Leon of Turner able to simply drive onto the back of the Civic on the long run round the oval before Shedden scampered away again on the infield. Neal was also keeping himself in close proximity to the front two as a three-way battle developed for the lead. They had a small lead over Adam Jones in a somewhat lonely fourth, while Tom Onslow-Cole has climbed into fifth after slipping past Mat Jackson at Deene.

On lap five, Turner closed right onto the rear of the Civic on the run round the oval, but Shedden was able to take a tight inside line into Deene to ensure that there was no space for the Leon to move through. Although it meant Shedden was slower out of the corner as a result, he was able to defend into Yentwood to keep the birthday boy behind him. In a repeat of the move seen a lap earlier, Jackson lost out to a Vauxhall at Deene, this time with Giovanardi going through into six. Behind Jackson in seventh, Tom Chilton, Plato and Steven Kane rounded out the top ten.

Neal was now starting to really pressure Turner for second place, which was allowing Shedden to open a small advantage and the double champion tried his luck at Tarzan on lap six although he was unable to find a way through.

By now however, the rain that had been due to arrive in mid-afternoon had decided to make an early appearance and light drizzle was starting to fall.

That drizzle almost caught out Plato as he attempted to make up places, with the SEAT man using the pace of the diesel round the oval to close onto Chilton's Civic in the battle for eighth. Plato looked down the inside at Deene on lap ten but was then forced to try on the outside line when Chilton tried to defend. The Leon got slightly out of shape as Plato turned in, but luckily when he planted the throttle he was able to power through the corner without losing any positions.

Neal was continuing to push Turner as the damp conditions played to the strengths of the Vectra in much the same way they had at Brands Hatch two weeks earlier, but on lap twelve, Neal outbraked himself into Deene and went straight on - relieving the pressure on Turner and dropping the Vectra to fifth, with Neal rejoining between team-mates Onslow-Cole and Giovanardi, the later now coming under increasing pressure from a resurgent Jackson.

Onslow-Cole quickly allowed Neal through on the oval on the following lap but Giovanardi was unable to follow him through as he was forced to drive with one eye on the mirrors to keep Jackson behind. Having seen the two Vectras and the BMW run together for a number of laps, Giovanardi and Jackson both managed to get past on lap 15 when Onslow-Cole got slightly out of shape at Pif Paf, with Chilton trying to follow them through before Onslow-Cole closed the door.

Heading into the final lap, Shedden was clear out front with Turner safe in second, but Neal had now closed onto the rear of Jones in the battle for third. Well aware of the fact that his focus is on the Independents' title, Jones conceded the position at Deene to give the final podium position to Neal. Jones was still assured of Independent honours in fourth place, while Giovanardi and Jackson completed the top six.

Onslow-Cole held off a charging Chilton for seventh, while Plato and Kane rounded out the points scorers. Outside the top ten, Stephen Jelley rebounded from running wide on the opening lap to finish eleventh ahead of Matt Allison's Chevrolet, while Collard managed to climb back to 13th after his earlier excursion. Jason Hughes was 14th ahead of John George, while Turkington eventually took the flag down in 16th place.

The race saw only three retirements, although the Lexus of Chris Stockton failed to start having been ruled out of race day by a mechanical issue. Andrew Jordan and Harry Vaulkhard retired after apparently coming together on track, while Mike Jordan was also forced out after stopping on the oval having run straight on at Deene.

For full results, CLICK HERE.