Rob Austin (Handy Motorsport Toyota Avensis) claimed pole position for the opening race of the weekend. Ashley Sutton (Adrian Flux Subaru Levorg) actually set the fastest time in the session, but was thrown to the back of the grid due to a technical issue on his car’s turbocharging system.
Maiden win for Moffat
Austin got away cleanly as the red lights went out at the start of the race, but was given a robust tap from Tom Ingram (Speedworks Motorsport Toyota Avensis) under braking for Redgate, the first right-hand corner. Ingram slipped past into the lead, and on the second lap Austin was demoted to third place by a charging Moffat.
Ingram’s Avensis was laden with performance-equalling success ballast in light of his strong performances at Brands Hatch a fortnight earlier, and was also wearing the harder (and less grippy) Dunlop SportMaxx tyre compound. He had no answer to Moffat when the Mercedes driver sliced ahead as the cars swept down the Craner Curves.
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As Moffat made good his escape at the front, Ingram lost second place to the resurgent Austin, who was grappling with a slight gear shifting issue. Ingram was also demoted by Matt Neal (Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic) and Turkington before the end.
Neal - chasing the 60th BTCC victory of his career – slipped ahead of Austin in the closing stages, but could make no impression on Moffat, who matched the Civic driver’s lap times to rack up the first BTCC victory of his career.
“It’s a very special feeling – I won’t be forgetting this moment anytime soon,” said Moffat. “The Laser Tools Racing Mercedes was absolutely brilliant. We’ve had a great set-up on the car all weekend, so I was feeling confident and knew we had the pace. It all came together nicely.”
The car in front is a Toyota
With the grid for the second race decided by race one’s results, Moffat lined up on pole position. However, he now had a hefty amount of success ballast aboard his A-Class, and also decided to use the harder Dunlop tyre compound, which all competitors must use in one of the three races.
Despite these handicaps, he blazed into a sizeable lead at the start, as Rob Collard (Team BMW 125i M Sport) and team-mate Turkington squabbled over second place with Austin. Collard emerged with the advantage, and as Turkington was squeezed out and lost momentum, Ingram seized third place. That soon became second as Collard made an unsuccessful move for the lead and ended up losing a place himself.
Ingram hunted down Moffat, who found he was unable to maintain his early pace, and after four laps the lead changed hands. Moffat would eventually slip to 14th place despite some defiant defending.
Ingram pulled out four seconds on his pursuers and in the closing stages Collard found himself coming under intense pressure from Sutton, who had charged from 13th on the grid to third position. He almost made that second by attacking Collard on the final lap, but the BMW man got the nod by 0.2sec.
Another man on the move was Josh Cook (Team Parker with Maximum Motorsport Ford Focus) who moved up from tenth on the grid to fourth, ahead of Turkington and reigning champion Gordon Shedden (Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic).
Turkington wins, Shedden binned
The reversed-grid system meant that Dave Newsham (BTC Norlin Racing Chevrolet Cruze) started on pole position for the third and final race of the day. Rain swept through the East Midlands before the start of the race, and the first attempt to get the action underway was red-flagged as several cars aquaplaned off the flooded circuit.
The biggest casualty was Neal, who had made a strong start to the original race before slithering off into the gravel trap. His car needed outside assistance from a rescue vehicle to get going again, a rule that meant he was not eligible to take the restart, even though his car was relatively undamaged.
When the race finally got underway, Newsham made good his escape from pole position, fending off the fast-starting BMW of Turkington. The man on the move was Shedden, who dispatched with Cook and Turkington in quick succession and used the superior grip of his Civic to overtake Newsham around the outside at Redgate corner.
As he pulled away, Turkington also passed Newsham, who then fell back into the clutches of Sutton, who in turn was being hunted down by Adam Morgan (Ciceley Motorsport Mercedes A-Class). Sutton passed Newsham, only for the Chevrolet driver to pull off a surprise late-braking move to retake the spot at the start of the penultimate lap. They ran three abreast down to the final corner of the race and it was Morgan who emerged with the position as Sutton and Newsham squabbled.
After the race, Shedden was excluded from the results when his Civic failed a ride-height check. Turkington inherited maximum points, with Morgan and Sutton elevated into the other podium positions.
The results of the three races mean that Ingram leads the standings on 86 points, ahead of Turkington (72pts), Morgan (69pts), Shedden and Collard (both 67pts). The next event is at the superfast Thruxton circuit in Hampshire on 6/7 May.