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.