Honda's Matt Neal heads the point standings after Brands Hatch
Tom Ingram chased by Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal
Adam Morgan fended off Sam Tordoff and Jack Goff in race three
The Subaru Levorgs experienced a challenging BTCC debut
Honda Civic driver Matt Neal left Brands Hatch at the head of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship points standings after three dramatic races.
Neal, champion in 2005, 2006 and 2011, didn’t win any of the three races at the Kent circuit, but he was the most consistent finisher in his Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda, claiming third, second and fifth to collect 43 points.
In changeable conditions on Saturday rising star Tom Ingram had planted his Toyota Avensis on pole position, and he turned in a masterful performance in Sunday’s opening race, leading from start to finish to claim his first Dunlop MSA BTCC race win.
Although there was frantic action further down the order, up at the front the Speedworks Motorsport man calmly fended off reigning champion Gordon Shedden and third-placed Neal, maintaining his advantage even though a mid-race safety car allowed his rivals to close up.
The Subaru Levorg of Colin Turkington was in the wars early on, as was the BMW 125i M Sport of Sam Tordoff after contact with his West Surrey Racing team-mate Rob Collard. Motorbase duo Mat Jackson and Andrew Jordan went side-by-side across the line on lap three, narrowly avoiding each other in their Ford Focuses, but the major moment came later on the same lap.
Power Maxed Racing’s Hunter Abbott lost control on the run through to Surtees, and Alex Martin spun wildly while trying to avoid contact with the Chevrolet ahead of him. Although the Dextra Racing driver succeeded in that respect, his striking yellow machine went on to make heavy contact with the barrier.
A short safety car intervention followed, which ultimately led to dramas for two particular BTCC race winners. Adam Morgan was the first car to be shuffled down the order, as his WIX Racing Mercedes-Benz A-Class dropped to ninth.
Team IHG Rewards Club’s Jack Goff was next to fall foul of the chasing pack as he attacked Ashley Sutton’s MG 6 for fifth. Goff’s failed attempt left the BMW running wide at Paddock Hill Bend, and he found himself down in tenth by the end of the race.
BTCC debutant Sutton got the better of his MG team-mate Josh Cook to finish fourth, Collard took a top six finish while Aron Smith brought his VW CC home in seventh.
Jackson eventually finised eighth ahead of the fading Morgan and Goff, while the second Motorbase Ford of Jordan had to settle for 11th.
Subaru’s introduction to the BTCC was a difficult one as Colin Turkington got caught up in an incident in the early running and team boss Warren Scott was unable to make the start in his Levorg. Both Jason Plato and James Cole reached the finish, although some way down the order as the Team BMR-run outfit continues to develop its quartet of Levorgs in racing conditions.
Ingram - his Toyota now carrying a full 75kg of success ballast thanks to his race one heroics - started the second race from pole position and although he led away when the lights went out, he was soon being harried by the fast-starting BMW of Collard.
The latter attacked into Paddock Hill Bend at the start of lap two, and the pair made contact. The dispute continued on the climb to Druids hairpin, with more severe contact pitching Collard into a lurid spin and breaking the rear-right suspension of Ingram’s Avensis, forcing him into retirement later round the lap.
Shedden and Neal inherited first and second positions respectively in their Hondas and never looked back. Attention turned to a fierce scrap for the final podium position.
Aron Smith had already hauled his VW from seventh into fourth, but the Irishman was determined to reach the rostrum. He made his move on Cook’s MG on lap six and was then able to pull away from the gaggle of cars behind.
The Ford Focus of Andrew Jordan came out on top of that particular battle as he took fourth after a squabble with Cook’s MG. Jordan’s move also helped his team-mate Mat Jackson, who slipped by for fifth while Sutton was busy regaining his composure.
Jackson survived a late scare when fluid was spilled at Graham Hill Bend and he was one of several drivers to slide off the track.
Behind Sutton, Goff held on to seventh place ahead of Adam Morgan’s Mercedes, whilst Sam Tordoff took an impressive ninth. The Yorkshireman had to respond following a frustrating opening race when contact with Collard sent him tumbling down the order. Starting 16th in race two, Tordoff made solid progress throughout to eventually finish ahead of Jeff Smith, with the latter rounding out the top ten.
Tordoff’s joy was further heightened after the race when his finishing position was picked at random in the reverse grid draw, meaning the Team JCT600 with GardX car started race three from pole position.
Tordoff converted pole position into the lead at the start of race three, chased by Morgan’s Mercedes.
Behind them the two Fords of Jordan and Jackson made contact, both veering across the circuit before regaining control, although Jordan dropped several places as he did so. While he could continue, however, it transpired that Jackson had picked up a puncture and he was forced out of contention.
Up at the front, Tordoff’s BMW was closely shadowed by Morgan’s Mercedes, which was extremely quick on the soft Dunlop tyre compound in the early laps of the race and enabled him to slip into the lead on the run down to Paddock Hill Bend.
He couldn’t pull too far away, however, and Tordoff was soon joined by fellow BMW driver Goff in pursuit of the leader.
The BMWs appeared to be waiting for Morgan’s front-wheel-drive Mercedes to wear out its tyres, but even though they were able to close in during the last couple of laps, Morgan was able to more than match their pace.
Neal ran fourth for much of the race, but couldn’t hold the position because the recovering Jordan dragged his Ford Focus alongside as they crossed the finish line. Jordan got the nod by just 0.037s as WSR’s Collard looked on behind in sixth.
Reigning champion Shedden had a disappointing end to his race: his ballast-laden Civic Type R was already fading down the order before a puncture sent him off and into retirement at Paddock Hill Bend.
Jeff Smith went side-by-side with Aron Smith and took seventh by just 0.003s. Laser Tools Racing’s Aiden Moffat took ninth, whilst Ashley Sutton recovered to take tenth despite getting bogged down off the start line and dropping way down the order.