Sam Tordoff has taken the lead in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, bringing to a close a day of exciting racing at Oulton Park, which also saw Subaru claim its first victory.
In the opening race of the day, the new Subaru Levorg BTCC racer claimed its first victory with former title-holder Colin Turkington at the wheel.
The rear-wheel drive Subaru Levorg estate endured a difficult time last time out at Thruxton last month, when the Silverline Subaru BMR Racing Team was forced to withdraw due to fuel system problems. But prior to Oulton Park the team was able to make some technical modifications and carried out a productive test session.
Showing the step forward made by Subaru, Turkington planted the Levorg on pole position for the opening race and never lost the lead. Sam Tordoff finished second in his Team JCT600 with GardX BMW 125i M Sport, while Jason Plato finished third, also in a Subaru Levorg.
Turkington’s win in the opening race also marks the first time that Subaru has ever won a BTCC event. Subaru’s tin-top victory comes one day after rally ace Mark Higgins set a new lap record for cars around the Isle of Man TT course in a WRX STI.
“We knew the soft tyres would work well in the heat,” said Turkington. “There was a stage in the middle of the race when I could see Sam was reasonably fast in the BMW, but I had a super car right until the end. We hit the jackpot.”
In race two at Oulton Park, Tordoff got the drop on Turkington at the start and quickly established a lead of almost one second. Turkington, meanwhile, had his rear-view mirrors filled with the sister Subaru of Plato, the Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R of Gordon Shedden and Tom Ingram’s Toyota Avensis.
That’s the way it remained until the end, with the two Subarus unable to make inroads into Tordoff’s lead. The real entertainment was behind this group, where a determined Josh Cook kept his MG Racing RCIB Insurance MG 6 ahead of a huge gaggle of potentially faster cars.
A hard-charging Rob Collard (WSR BMW 125i M Sport) came closest to usurping Cook, overtaking the MG on lap 12, only to run wide on to the grass and come into contact with Cook as he regained the track, incurring a puncture that ended his challenge.
Matt Neal (Halfords Yuasa Racing Honda Civic Type R) was another driver to attack Cook - and the pair came to blows in the middle of the race, leaving the Honda with a dented bonnet and the MG with a flapping rear bumper.
Neal faded slightly in the final couple of laps, leaving Cook to collect a hard-earned sixth position.
For the reversed-grid start of race three, it was Neal who started from pole position. He managed to make a clean getaway from the starting line, and held on to the lead throughout, winning for the 58th time in his BTCC career.
Neal’s team-mate Shedden faced a stern challenge from Ingram in the opening lap of the race, but emerged victorious and took third place. Shedden and Cook got together, with the latter sliding off the track in his MG6, leaving the Honda driver to take second position.
With less than two laps to go, however, Shedden’s car received a puncture, forcing him into the pits and leaving Tordoff clear to take second place. Plato completed a string of third-place podium positions, while Ingram, Cook and Collard took fourth, fifth and sixth places respectively.
Speaking following his victory, Neal said: “I knew Gordon had gone out and so I backed it off over the closing stages - but you are always hearing all kinds of scary things towards the end of a race anyway. I am delighted."
These latest results mean that Tordoff is the current championship leader, with only one point separating him from second place man Neal. With over half of the season remaining, though, Tordoff will be working hard to maintain his lead over the coming races.
The next round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship takes place at Croft circuit on 18-19 June.